By Karen Wolfe

Mary Margaret Thorburn, Chair for the Hospice Georgina Board of Directors, was at council on Wed, Feb 7, discussing the urgent need in Georgina for a Residential Hospice facility to provide comfort and dignity for both patient and family during a patient’s end-of-life journey.

According to Thorburn, York Region, with a population of 1.2 million, only has 25 palliative care beds, while North Simcoe/Muskoka has 45 palliative care beds for just 84,452.

She said it was time for Georgina to play catch up.

“We are terribly behind. The problem when hospice beds are too far away, it can create a significant logistical and emotional challenge for the families. They must travel long distances to visit, incurring additional expenses and time commitments. The separation can add stress and emotional burden to the end-of-life process,” she said.

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In 2022, 27 Georgina residents died in residential hospice beds in Newmarket, and Thorburn said Georgina should have at least five palliative care beds to support its growing and aging population.

She said that Hospice Georgina is prepared to lobby all levels of government to secure enough funding for a five-bed residential hospice centre that would provide free palliative care services to address respite needs, spiritual care, family meetings, coordination of care and bereavement care.

York-Simcoe MPP Caroline Mulroney is already on-side.

In a recent letter to the Ontario Health Network, Mulroney urged the provincial health agency to consider supporting the proposal from Hospice Georgina.

“A residential hospice in Georgina would not only address the immediate shortfall in hospice beds but also provide crucial support to individuals and families facing end-of-life situations. The compassionate care hospice facilities offer is invaluable in ensuring dignity, comfort, and emotional support during challenging times,” the letter reads.

“By supporting the establishment of a residential hospice in Georgina, we are meeting the community’s current needs and preparing for the inevitable growth that the region will continue to experience. This proactive approach aligns with the vision of fostering a compassionate and resilient healthcare system that can adapt to the evolving demographics and demands of the York Region.”

Still, Thorburn told council that any funding commitments from other levels of government would be predicated on a commitment from the local government regarding a donation of land.

She said the Town’s purchase of the Sedore Reed Farm for $3.2 million in 2012 was a visionary investment, and the Sedores always hoped there could be a use associated with health care on the property.

“A portion of the former Sedore/Reed farm repurposed into a palliative facility stands as a symbol of the town’s commitment to the well-being and comfort of its residents–providing a place of solace and support for those in need during their final journey,” she said.

While no one at the Town was willing to commit to donating any portion of the Sedore/Reed farm that Clearwater Farm is not using on Lake Drive, staff did recognize that Hospice Georgina should be brought to the table when the new committee charged with developing a health care strategy gets underway in the second quarter of 2024.

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