Huron Hospice seeking $650,000 from county
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Huron Residential Hospice is asking Huron County for a grant of $650,000 to fund 50 per cent of the second phase of construction at the site. The project will add two more rooms for guests, while allowing two existing rooms to return to their intended purposes as a children’s activity room and a reflection room.
Executive Director Willy Van Klooster and Board Chair Jay McFarlan presented to Huron County Council via Zoom at its Sept. 16 meeting. They told council that if the county were to support the hospice, it would allow the organization to leverage provincial funding that would greatly aid its $2.7 million capital campaign. The campaign includes $1.3 million for the completion of phase two, while paying off $850,000 in debt from phase one and securing $550,000 in the hospice’s reserve fund.
If the county were to approve the $650,000 grant, it would release $680,000 from the Ontario Ministry of Health, much of which would be used to pay down remaining debt from phase one of the project. In order for the provincial government to release the funds, the hospice first has to match them. If this were to happen, the hospice would nearly meet 50 per cent of its capital campaign goal.
The capital campaign is separate from the ongoing annual $600,000 the hospice will have to raise to operate, though Van Klooster said he assures council the county would not be throwing money into a “black hole” and that those behind the hospice are working hard to ensure the facility is operational in Huron County for generations to come.
Huron East Mayor Bernie MacLellan was the first to weigh in, speaking against the grant. He said that, due to a number of factors, he didn’t even know if it was appropriate to request a staff report on the request, which is the common course of action when grant funds are requested.
First, he said, the county has put a moratorium in place on all grants. Furthermore, he recalled an earlier presentation on the hospice when council was assured the county wouldn’t be approached for funds down the road.
He also added that Jessica’s House, a private hospice in South Huron, is running itself without any assistance from the county, so it would be unfair to support one and not the other.
The primary reason he was against the grant, however, was that he felt it was another example of the provincial government downloading public health costs onto lower-tier governments.
He said he didn’t doubt the quality of the service at the hospice and the beauty of the experiences of those who have chosen to live out their last days there, but from a governmental standpoint, he didn’t feel it was appropriate to use taxpayers’ dollars to help fund the project.
While Bluewater Deputy-Mayor Jim Fergusson didn’t necessarily speak in favour of approving the grant, he did, however, ask that staff prepare a report for council, which was passed.