ABOYNE – A rural hospice site in Wellington County isn’t just nice to have but one of the doctors behind the project said it’s essential for rural healthcare.
That’s what Dr. Sarah Gower told the hundreds who gathered for the Aboyne Rural Hospice community kick-off event outside the Wellington County Museum and Archives late afternoon Friday.
This is a short distance away from the planned hospice site which is on two-acres of land at the Wellington Place campus which was donated by the County of Wellington in 2022.
Originally planned as a six-bed site, the project’s scope has been revised to have space for 10. Gower, one of many behind the project, explained this was from a Ministry of Health formula which based that on the number of palliative-coded deaths in the region, which in the last fiscal year was 893 in Wellington County alone.
Gower told stories of patients who ended up dying in the hospital rather than at home or a hospice site because the site in Guelph was too far to travel or not available.
“When I think about why hospice, I think this is an essential project,” Gower said. “It’s not even just a working on or important project or a great project it’s actually essential for rural equity and our own healthcare and our end of life.”
It’s not going to come cheap. Retired Dr. Alan Simpson, another one spearheading the project, said in an interview the build is expected to cost $8.5 million, operating costs for two years about $2 million and other expenses like landscaping and furniture would total about $2 million. In-kind donations could help bring some of those costs down.
“For the Ministry of Health to okay us to start us off, we need to fundraise $2.5 million in either pledges, cash or whatever before they’ll help fund us for capital costs,” Simpson said.
The hospice site got a bit of help from the Fergus-Elora Rotary Club who entered into an agreement to provide $500,000 over 10 years for the project.
It wasn’t only supporters on hand Friday.
A group of about 20 people came out to protest the plan to offer medical assistance in dying (MAID) at the hospice. Included in the protest was Jakki Jeffs, executive director for Alliance for Life Ontario, and former township councillors Steven Van Leeuwen and Stephen Kitras — both of whom voted against Centre Wellington sending a letter of support to the province for the hospice site during the last council term.
The protesters stressed they were not against a hospice site but did not believe it was right to offer MAID.
Gower briefly alluded to this during opening statements noting she’s glad people can respect different opinions. Ultimately, Simpson was overwhelmed by the response by the community who came out by the hundreds for this kick-off event.
“I’m very humbled to be honest, it’s amazing, absolutely amazing,” Simpson said.