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Donor-dependent hospice faces uncertain future without provincial funding

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Ron Brush's wife lives at Hospice Muskoka in Port Carling, where staff are advocating for funding from the province to keep it operational.

"It's the next best place to heaven," Brush said.

Hospice Muskoka operates on a year-to-year basis, which makes retaining staff challenging.

"Hospice Muskoka needs base funding from the minister of health to support our ongoing services for 10 beds, which includes one pediatric bed, the only pediatric bed in all of Muskoka," said Donna Kearney, executive director.

The District of Muskoka pitched in nearly $200,000 this year to help support the facility.

"We can't take on the huge costs of the healthcare system, so we do need senior government to come forward to help hospice with the cost of operating. In the meantime, we are able to help to some extent," said Jeff Lehman, district chair.

Currently, half of the hospice's budget is covered by donor dollars and grants, meaning staff need to raise $1.2 million every year to serve a growing population in Muskoka.

"Over the last seven months, Hospice Muskoka has had nine beds 100 per cent occupied. We have a waiting list of about 35 people currently," Kearney.

Those with loved ones at the hospice say this kind of care makes a significant difference for them and their family members, offering a dignified end-of-life experience.

"It just allows you to know that your loved one is passing away in comfort and surrounded by love," said Doug Crichton, whose father lived at Hospice Muskoka.

With its current funding expected to run out by April, Hospice Muskoka accepts donations and hopes residents will voice their concerns to the provincial government because if more funding isn't provided, the next step could be layoffs or closure.

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