On August 18th actual construction of a long-awaited hospice in Kentville was announced. For as many people as are celebrating this news, a significant number are in the “about time” column. Here’s a history of this lengthy project so people can track the glacial progress of the hospice:
1997 – Survey determines the need for a 10-bed hospice.
1999 – Foundation formed with goal of raising $700,000 for hospice.
2000 – Sept. 8th Chronicle Herald article says VON Kings Hospice Foundation raised $150,000 towards 10-bed hospice.
2005 – July: Hospice Working Group formed.
2006 – October 3: An “Extraordinary General Meeting” held to approve a name change to the “Valley Hospice Foundation”.
2006 – Fall: The Valley Hospice Foundation (VHF) joins Valley Regional Hospital Foundation to raise $8 million via the Our Community Our Health Capital Campaign. The merged campaign starts in 2008 with what, in 2010, is described as a “quiet phase”, which excluded the public. In a confusing description the campaign funds “were to be distributed 25% community portion of the redevelopment of Valley Regional Hospital, the purchase of medical equipment and 100% funding requirements for the building of a Hospice and Palliative Care Centre.”
2008 – VHF directors agree funds are to be used for the purpose intended, that surplus funds are to be invested to maximize return with limited risk, and that administrative costs of the foundation and joint capital campaign should not exceed 7% over three years. (In 2012 this was changed to 15% over five years. In 2013 this was amended to allow campaign administrative costs to rise to 17% over the span of the campaign period, ending March 31, 2014. There were years when VHF expenses run 36, 44 and 180% of revenues.)
2009 – VHF Annual Report starts using a “conceptual image” of the hospice, suggesting planning and design has started.
2009 – Hospice’s projected cost had risen to $4.2 million. The Our Community Our Health campaign has that in the bank.
2010 – February: Formal public launch of Our Community Our Health.
2011 – July: Two palliative care rooms open in Valley Regional Hospital.
2012 – Spring: Hospice website launched.
2013 – September: A design consulting services contract awarded for the Hospice and Palliative Care Centre.
2014 – March 31: VHF chair’s Year in Review says, “97% of our financial goal has been realized and the reality of our Hospice Centre is imminent.”
2014 – June 11: CBC quotes VHF chair Diana Patterson, “We were very, very close. Very close indeed. We had enough money to start building.” The “good delay” in moving forward she placed on the Liberal government’s move to merge nine district health authorities into one provincial health authority.
2015 – March 31: Plans for the hospice are given to Minister of Health. The Our Community Our Health campaign is $45,000 short of its $8 million goal.
2015 – July 6: CBC reports VHF reached its $4 million fundraising goal and will continue to fundraise.
2016 – February 3: VHF chair tells CBC they have a meeting with the Nova Scotia Health Authority. “Our money is in the bank and we’re waiting for the go.”
2016 – August 19: Convenient photo op is arranged so the “go” can be announced.
People can be excused for being sceptical about the announcement. In typical fashion, the people on hospital hill and those ensconced in the corporate bunker in the Valley Industrial Park spent decades talking amongst themselves. They have spent two decades having meetings, forming committees and discussing working group composition, with some fundraising thrown in.
The timeline for the hospice doesn’t show any burdensome workload. While their annual reports are full of thanks for the tireless work of their volunteers, that didn’t alleviate the pain and suffering of people in need.
Now that an announcement has been made, it comes with an equally languid timeline. A hospice won’t open until 2019! Why? They’re not building a battleship or a rocket. It’s essentially a modified motel. The 62-bed Shannex Orchard Court, located several hundred metres from Valley Regional Hospital, was constructed in 18 months and that included time to remediate old railroad lands. Orchard Court is six times the size of what was announced and built in half the time. Across the hospital parking lot is Fidelis House. It accommodates 20 people a night and was constructed in less than a year.
Why does the hospice need three years? The VHF commissioned plans in 2013, they have had the full construction money for over a year, in February they had their final round of meetings, so had an extra six months to modify any plans. If they were efficient and effective they would have been ready to brake ground with their announcement. Construction could have started now and a shell weather tight before the snow flies, with work continuing throughout the winter.
It doesn’t give one confidence that this will be on budget – and the new costs are curiously $900,000 less than those budgeted a decade ago – and on time. Cynics remember that on November 28, 2012, then Health and Wellness Minister David Wilson came to Kentville with a $1 million promise to fund a new dialysis unit at Valley Regional Hospital. Tim Guest, Annapolis Valley Health Authority’s VP of acute care, now with the Nova Scotia Health Authority, told local media it would take two years before the unit opened. Four years later there is still no dialysis unit and the ground hasn’t been broken on it.
By 2019 we could be on a new government, which could present a whole new range of excuses and delays. At the very least a new hospice should open in 2017 on the anniversary of the original survey which found the need for one.
A postscript – since no designs were commissioned before 2013, how did the VHF come up with a $4.2 million price tag for a hospice? Was this an invented number or based on some actual model?