Fraser Health takes over Delta hospice that refused to offer medically assisted death

Patients at the Irene Thomas Hospice in Delta, B.C. are being forced to move before Feb. 25, 2020. Fraser Health blames a lack of co-operation with the Delta Hospice Society Board ahead of a long-planned transition.

The hospice in Delta, B.C., that refused to offer patients access to medically assisted death has been taken over by the local health authority.

Fraser Health took possession of the lands and buildings at Irene Thomas Hospice on Monday after formally ending its service agreement with the Delta Hospice Society, which used to receive about $1.5 million in annual funding from the province.

But the society's board balked at government pressure to provide access to Medical Assistance in Dying, a service B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix has called a medical right for patients in publicly funded hospice care.

Board president Angelina Ireland has stressed the society is ideologically opposed to MAiD. Last year, while speaking at a prof-life conference in Ohio, she compared the legally protected choice for eligible Canadians to end their own lives to Nazi concentration camps.

"This is the Delta Hospice Society, this is not the Delta Auschwitz Society," Ireland told the crowd.

Fraser Health said it's working to reopen the Irene Thomas Hospice beds as soon as possible, and that final preparations are underway to do so by April 15.

That work involves completing upgrades and repairs to the building and ensuring that staffing is in place, according to the health authority.

Fraser Health was hoping for a seamless transition that would have allowed patients to remain at the hospice while it was changing hands, but said the Delta Hospice Society Board refused to co-operate on a plan.

Board members have disputed that characterization, and accused Fraser Health of refusing to co-operate with them.

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Ben Miljure