VANCOUVER -- Patients at a hospice in Delta, B.C. will have their final days and weeks disrupted by a move to other facilities because the Delta Hospice Society Board refuses to work with Fraser Health on a transition plan as the health authority takes over operations at the facility.

The Irene Thomas Hospice in Ladner has 10 beds and provides end of life care for patients with terminal illnesses.

In February 2020, Fraser Health served the board with one year’s notice to end its service agreement and withdraw funding after the board refused to offer Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD), the end of life option that has been legal in Canada since 2016.

"Throughout this process, our goal has been to maintain consistency of services for the individuals and families receiving care at the Irene Thomas Hospice and for the community of Delta. Our preference has always been to keep hospice beds at the Irene Thomas Hospice,” the health authority said in a statement co-signed by B.C. Minister of Health Adrian Dix.

“On two occasions, Fraser Health proposed to the society that Fraser Health be permitted to take over hospice operations, to ensure hospice services can continue at that location using existing staff. However, on both occasions, the society was unreceptive to this proposal.”

The Delta Hospice Society’s service agreement ends on Feb. 25 and because the board will not work with Fraser Health to maintain services during a transition period, the health authority plans to serve the society with a 30-day eviction notice on that day.

In the meantime, the patients currently residing in the hospice, who have chosen that facility for their end of life preparations, have been told they will be moved on or before Feb. 25.

Terminal brain cancer patient Joanne Steen, 73, who only moved into the hospice 10 days ago, is one of the patients who received notice about the upcoming move.

“It came yesterday. My mom received it by herself. I had just left visiting her,” said Alison Steen, her daughter. “She called me after she got the letter. Very confused. My mom has brain cancer. For all of the families that are in there and all of the patients -- they don’t deserve to be moved at this time.”

Angelina Ireland, president of the hospice society board, is ideologically opposed to MAiD, and last year while speaking at a pro-life conference in the United States, she compared the legally protected choice available to qualified Canadians to a Second World War Nazi death camp.

“This is the Delta Hospice Society. This is not the Delta Auschwitz Society,” Ireland told the crowd during a nearly hour long speech in Ohio, referencing the notorious concentration camp where more than one million people were murdered.

Reached by phone, Ireland, who ran unsuccessfully for the People’s Party of Canada in the 2019 federal election, denied her board is refusing to work with Fraser Health on a transition plan.

“That is absolutely, patently false. That’s nonsense,” she said, before accusing the health authority of being unwilling to work with the board on a transition that will allow residents to continue to receive care at the facility.

“Fraser Health will not co-operate with us,” Ireland said.

When asked to provide details on exactly how Fraser Health was standing in the way of the transition, Ireland said goodbye and abruptly ended the conversation.

Because there will not be a seamless transition, Fraser Health is unable to provide an exact timeline for when it will be able to re-open the Irene Thomas Hospice following the current operator’s eviction.

In the meantime, it will open ten hospice beds at nearby Mountain View Manor, on the grounds of Delta Hospital.

Residents of Irene Thomas Hospice will have a choice to move into that facility or another hospice of their choice in a neighbouring community.

For her mother’s sake, Alison Steen hopes a last minute resolution can be worked out so that her mother won’t have to move.

“This is a world class facility that we have here. Other hospice model what we have here when they’re building theirs,” Steen said. “And to close its doors was not the vision of anybody that donated and put their time into building it.”

Fraser Health said it is committed to offering employment opportunities elsewhere for all unionized staff currently working at Irene Thomas Hospice.