Comfort, Care, Compassion: bringing residential hospice care to Durham Region

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Campaign seeks to bring hospice care to Durham

The dream of bringing residential hospices to Durham Region is beginning to stabilize with the launch of an ambitious capital campaign.

Recently, Durham Region Hospice revealed its $15 million “Comfort, Care, Compassion” campaign to supports the construction of a 10-bed facility in Whitby and a five-bed facility in Clarington.

Durham Region Hospice is a partnership between two organizations, Durham Hospice and VON (Victorian Order of Nurses) Durham Community Corporation, formed in June 2017.

Yet, as Durham Hospice board chair Melodie Zarzeczny explains, the push to bring hospice services to the region has been ongoing for decades.

“There is a long history here,” Zarzeczny says. “Durham Hospice has always wanted and had a vision of residential hospice beds.”

Zarzeczny says finances have always been “a huge barrier” impeding that vision.

“Hospices are not like hospitals. The community has to contribute the bulk of the dollars and the province puts in a little more.”

The province has pledged to provide up to $250,000 per bed in capital costs, equalling to approximately $3 million.

Annual operating costs will be $250,000, with $105,000 of that coming from the province.

The target date for completion of the facilities is March 2019.

The Municipality of Clarington donated a two-acre parcel of land in the Newcastle-area to house the smaller facility.

The region is currently one of a few municipalities in Ontario without a fully-operational residential hospice centre.

VON Durham board chair Christine Raynor says the estimated need of 33 hospice beds in Durham by 2019 is a “very conservative number”.

According to her, a more realistic figure is 55 to 60 beds.

Raynor says that demand will likely only increase as time goes on.

“There are more people coming here for retirement,” Raynor says. “That [demographic] is growing really quickly.”

Raynor notes that only five per cent of deaths in Canada require care in a hospital setting.

With annual end-of-life care costs in Ontario estimated at $4.7 billion and an acute care bed costing approximately $890 per day, Raynor says hospice services offer a more affordable option to the province’s healthcare system.

The average cost of a hospice care bed is $439 per day.

The campaign is already well underway and to reach the $15 million goal, the organization will be reaching out to local municipalities, corporations, and individuals.

Zarzeczny says the Region of Durham has indicated interest in supporting the initiative.

“There is absolutely an appetite for regional support.”

Raynor and Zarzeczny, who have fought for the cause for close to a decade, are optimistic for the future.

“We are very excited and I think the communities we are working with are very excited for this as well,” Zarzeczny says.

Without looking into the future, the pair believe they are “positioned well” to add other hospices in the region should the opportunity present itself.

For more information on the campaign, visit or contact


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