Saugeen Hospice updates council on efforts for ‘south build’

By: Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times
BROCKTON – Carl Kuhnke continues to make the rounds of local municipal and county councils, speaking on behalf of Saugeen Hospice.
His presentation to Brockton council on Nov. 9 was of particular interest, since that municipality has provided land where the new residential hospice will be built, if and when what Mayor Chris Peabody describes as a “log jam” can be resolved.
“It’s important to bring Brockton up to date on what we’re doing,” said Kuhnke.
After providing information on why hospice care is so important, and so seriously underfunded by government, he got down to specifics with Saugeen Hospice.
Hospital and long-term care are 100 per cent funded, while the hospice concept depends heavily on community support. And the people in the southern part of Grey-Bruce have been providing it, Kuhnke said, through highly successful fundraisers and generous donations.
Then came COVID-19, and fundraising became very difficult. Residential Hospice of Grey Bruce (RHGB) made a decision to focus on keeping the existing residential hospice, Chapman House in Owen Sound, in a sound financial position and put the “south build” on indefinite hold. RHGB announced it would stop accepting donations for the south build.
Kuhnke and another member of the Saugeen Hospice board, Kelly Fotheringham, were on the RHGB board and decided the south build should go ahead. While Owen Sound is only an hour away, winter storms can make it an insurmountable hurdle.
“There’s a heavy need for something in the south,” Kuhnke said.
The initiative has been in play for five years. RHGB holds over $707,000 in a segregated south build account. While Saugeen Hospice does not yet have charitable tax status, and cannot yet provide tax receipts, that will come early in the new year.
In the meantime, fundraising events continue. This year’s Golf Fore Hospice event raised $150,000 and was, in fact, the last amount put in the RHGB segregated account. Hike for Hospice has taken in well over $100,000 annually. In the planning stages are Harvest for Hospice and Rally for Hospice. Kuhnke commended local service clubs for their ongoing efforts on behalf of hospice including the Mildmay Rotary Club’s 50/50 draw. Kuhnke noted that the winner donated the amount to the Walkerton and District Hospital Foundation and to hospice (as soon as tax status is achieved).
Kuhnke noted that donations continue to flow in to Saugeen Hospice despite the present lack of tax status. These donations, plus the hard work of some very accomplished volunteers, have enabled Saugeen Hospice to move ahead with plans.
“We are confident of success in making this hospice a reality,” Kuhnke said.
Discussions continue with government representatives including local MPPs, the minister of health and senior officials, “in an effort to speed up the process,” he said.
Local funeral homes – Cameron, Mighton and others – have been very generous, said Kuhnke. A marked increase in donations is expected once Saugeen Hospice has tax status. A major donors campaign is underway to “kick-start” everything, similar to what happened when Chapman’s Ice Cream donated $1 million for RHGB. While it’s too soon for any announcement, Kuhnke was able to tell council that quest for a major sponsor is having positive results. There is interest, he said.
Saugeen Hospice needs $1 million to be authorized by the ministry of health to go ahead with the build, and $400,000 annually for operating expenses.
Kuhnke asked Brockton for a $10,000 grant, to be included in 2022 budget deliberations.
There were a number of questions from council including who would be able to access hospice care in the new facility once it’s built. Kuhnke explained that it’s handled through the Ministry of Health; should there be vacancies, people from outside the area could be accepted.
Coun. Tim Elphick asked if Brockton advocating for Saugeen Hospice would help. Kuhnke said it certainly would help make a point with the province.
Coun. Steve Adams confirmed the level of support in the community and on council.
“When we donated the land, everyone was supportive … there is massive support in the community.”
In closing, Kuhnke expressed Saugeen Hospice’s wish to see the new residential hospice built. The group is working with the ministry of health, and would be willing to partner with RHGB.
The present objective is to hire a part-time person to fundraise.
The mayor said he’s met with RHGB to discuss the municipality’s plans in East Ridge Business Park.
“They told us they would have a decision for us in the next few months,” Peabody said. “It was a conciliatory meeting … quite a good meeting.”
Peabody noted the site in East Ridge “will be ready to go sooner than anticipated.”