A large crowd of approximately 250 people jammed the Prince Edward Community Centre Monday evening in the wake of executive director Nancy Parks’ resignation a month ago and demanded to have community membership restored.
Former board member and current HPE volunteer Mark Larratt-Smith told the crowd the organization became a closed corporation when bylaws were changed in January 2014 at a hastily called meeting, with only 11 people present — mostly board members. He said that vote effectively wiped out bylaws adopted in 2010, making anyone who contributed time or resources to HPE voting members of the corporation.
“How can a 10-minute, 11-person meeting possibly have been legitimate when it disenfranchised all of the volunteers and donors while keeping them in ignorance?” he questioned. “The process implemented by the board has had the effect of removing all accountability to the community. The board has become a sort of free-floating, self-perpetuating balloon with no accountability to anyone.”
Larratt-Smith questioned the accountability of the board since the 2014 bylaw change, saying there was no annual general meeting or financial reports coming forward.
HPE opened its doors in 2013 at the three-bedroom home purchased on Downes Avenue in Picton after a capital campaign raised more than $800,000.
Prince Edward–Hastings MPP Todd Smith said the delivery of palliative care is experiencing province-wide problems.
“An Auditor General’s report on hospice care in Ontario showed it’s more or less a wild-west approach with a mix-mash of services offered,” he said. “Hospices are being operated differently and the services are different. The (Ministry of Health) has no idea how much is being spent provincially on palliative care… but there is legislation on the way that will require boards to be transparent and there will be specific requirements.
“It is important that you in this room have a part to play and it’s extremely important to work together as a community and families using hospice are at the centre of all of our efforts.”
Volunteer Pat Dye said problems with the delivery of care have arisen at the home.
“Over the years there has been great teamwork within the Prince Edward Hospice group … and in prior years the membership was open to volunteers, donors and members of the public who signed up to participate.
However, at some point in 2014 all members, except the board, were effectively cut adrift,” she said. “In the new year efforts to give the usual service were compromised. Efforts to give the full 24-hour, seven-day coverage by clinical staff was reduced in some cases to a 20-hour day – leaving four hours when only a volunteer or family member would be present to meet any medical crisis. The executive director (Nancy Parks) took the initiative to cover those hours by hiring a PSW directly from hospice funds. They were told no additional hiring could be done. Rumours abound and then our executive director resigned.”
Provincial funding for Hospice Prince Edward is administered by the South East Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) while the administration of services falls under the umbrella of the Community Care Access Centre (CCAC).
The spouse of a former hospice employee warned the audience to educate themselves on the role of both organizations in the delivery of palliative care.
“The board can change, and can have all the great ideas they want but the LHIN controls the money and the CCAC dictates the level of care,” he said.
A (non-binding) straw vote was held after Eleanor Lindsay MacDonald read a draft motion to restore the membership to the 2010 status and make all active community volunteers and donors eligible for membership, including the right to vote at annual and special general meetings on the Hospice foundation and corporation. Lindsay MacDonald’s motion was met with unanimous support.
Meeting chairperson Bev Campbell said the volunteers need to re-establish a working relationship with the board. She said it was essential to restore the confidence of donors and volunteers suggested forming an informal group to bring both the board and community together.
Campbell said the organizers of Monday’s meeting would hold one more meeting in mid-July to establish the community group.
Members of the board of directors declined to attend the meeting after holding one of their own the previous week.
The following morning there was another shake-up with the more resignations.
President Linda Middleton and secretary Debbie MacDonald Moynes both resigned their positions and later in the day, interim executive director Angela Jodoin followed suit, tendering her resignation.
Four other board members have resigned since January and only two board members remain — past president Birgit Langswich and Treasurer Mary Camp.
In a release, Middleton stated, “When asked if I could step into the Chair position in January, for a short period of time, I understood that the board was becoming a Governance Board and that the duties would be light. I do believe that some good strong bridges have been built with CCAC over the past few months and that they will continue to be a supportive part of our palliative care operation. At this time in my life I do not feel that I have further time to commit to reorganizing these current issues.”