Medically assisted dying policy outlined at HHHS board meeting
by Jenn Watt
Published March 28, 2017
The following are brief reports of items discussed at the March 23 meeting of the Haliburton Highlands Health Services board.
Medical staff at Haliburton Highlands Health Services will be complying with federal legislation on medically assisted dying, but will not be helping patients with the final step.
A two-part process was outlined by chief of staff Dr. Kristy Gammon, which begins with an assessment of the patient. If the clinician agrees that the patient is a candidate for
“Generally, it’s going to be the clinician who would be providing medical assistance in death,” she said of the second assessor. “If both of those steps are passed there’s a 10-day waiting period for reflection.”
HHHS staff may perform the first assessment, but the second assessment will not be happening there. Instead, patients may go to Peterborough for this assessment or use the telemedicine suite at the hospital facilities.
Medical staff who are not comfortable playing a role in medically assisted dying are not obligated to, however they must be respectful of patients’ wishes and provide a timely referral to someone who will assist.
“The general legislation supports people having it at home and so in our area de facto that’s likely going to fall under the auspices of CCAC [Community Care Access Centre],” Gammon said.
CCAC has not yet completed its policy around MAID.
Gammon also pointed out that because HHHS’s long-term care units are considered people’s homes, assisted dying might be performed at Highland Wood or Hyland Crest, likely involving CCAC staff.
“Though it’s under our roof, we’re not providing that service,” she said.
She wasn’t able to give specifics about CCAC services when asked by board members, since their policy had not been completed.
Board member Jeff Gollob asked what would happen if someone was denied by the second assessor. Could they continue to look for a second medical opinion to agree to MAID? Was there a limit to how many doctors were consulted?
Gammon said she didn’t have the answer to that; the legislation is so new that many potential challenges have yet to be encountered.
HHHS still in the black
The corporation is still in good financial shape, though a surplus going into 2017 is dwindling.
Board member David Gray presented the finance committee report, which reflected January’s numbers. While HHHS had a $62,000 surplus, they are now much closer to the line.
“The numbers for January, given the pressures from payroll, sick time, utilities, etc., that surplus has shrunk down to $2,614. Close to breakeven,” he said.
HHHS continues to look into leads for new emergency department doctors. CEO Carolyn Plummer told the board one new physician was going through the credentialing process and would begin picking up shifts in May in Haliburton.
Recent retirements, departures and leaves have made scheduling doctors difficult. Plummer said there were two additional leads, which were being followed up.
Palliative centre on schedule
Plummer told the board the palliative care centre was on schedule, with construction moving along smoothly. Interior work should be complete by the end of May with the entire building finished in June, she told the board.
A tentative grand opening ceremony is being planned for Friday, May 26 at 11 a.m.
Meanwhile, fundraising for the centre is progressing rapidly. HHHS Foundation executive director Dale Walker told the board they had raised $1.2 million as of Thursday, including funds from the Legions in Minden and Haliburton, who dedicated money from the poppy fund. She anticipated having raised the entire $1.25 million by the end of May.
Compassionate care suites coming soon
Using dollars raised by the Minden and Haliburton hospital auxiliaries, the new compassionate care suites are being created at HHHS’s long-term care homes.
The suites “will be used in a number of different ways including providing a space for residents requiring close monitoring by nursing staff during an illness, and a space for residents and/or their families to use when a resident has become palliative and is reaching end of life,” Plummers report to the board says.
There will be one suite at Highland Wood and two in Hyland Crest – which has two floors and about double the residents. Work on those should be done this spring.
Haliburton Hospital Auxiliary presented to the board that $70,000 had been raised this year for the Haliburton hospital, which included money for the compassionate care suite, an iPad for long-term care residents and washrooms in the emergency department. Their next event is the geranium tea on May 7.
Board invites warden to meet
Following comments from Haliburton County Warden Brent Devolin that there needed to be a made-in-Haliburton solution to health care, the HHHS board has responded.
Board chairman Dave Bonham said that they would be happy to meet with Devolin.
Little else was said, however the board’s response was an agenda item for the meeting. Bonham said the board members discussed Devolin’s comments, which were made during a recent Chamber of Commerce breakfast and reported in the local media, in camera.