For the past two summers, Maison Vale Hospice and Warmhearts Palliative Caregivers Sudbury/Manitoulin have collaborated to put on a popular fundraising event called Butterflies and Memories.
Soon the two palliative care organizations will be doing a lot more together than working on one fundraising event.
They've actually been in talks about a possible merger since August 2012. Things progressed to the point where back in June, the boards for the two organizations signed a memorandum of understanding for a merger.
The next step in the process is getting the OK from the North East Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), which is expected to happen at the funding agency's Oct. 25 meeting.
Maison Vale Hospice executive director Leo Therrien said he expects the merger to be finalized by April 1, 2014.
“There's been some push of integration across the province, and there's been discussions of various integrations across the northeast, so it was normal for both hospice organizations in town to have discussions on integrations.”
Essentially, Warmhearts' palliative care volunteer visiting services will be folded into the mix with Maison Vale Hospice's other programs, and Warmhearts will officially dissolve.
“The visiting program can still be called Warmhearts,” Therrien said. “It just becomes another program (at the hospice).”
Warmhearts' three permanent staff members are in the process of transferring to the hospice's South Bay Road location, with their move slated to be complete by December.
Therrien said he sees many advantages to the arrangement, including cost savings, as Warmhearts will no longer have to pay for rent, insurance, staff training and other operating costs.
Once the merger is complete, it'll also be simpler for people who need palliative care services to arrange it – they'll just need to phone the hospice, he said.
The demand for palliative care volunteer visiting services may even increase, as hospice staff can more readily refer clients, Therrien said.
Dave Paquette, the local management consultant who stepped in as Warmhearts' interim executive director after former executive director Mary-Lou Hussak left for another job last winter, echoes Therrien's comments.
“I guess in a nutshell, it helps bring together all of the resources in the community to help individuals in their end-of-life care,” he said.
Paquette, who was hired to lead Warmhearts through the merger process, said it doesn't really make sense for two palliative care organizations to compete for fundraising dollars.
While they've collaborated in the past when it comes to Butterflies and Memories, each organization currently also has other, separate, fundraising events.
“What I think ends up happening is you're both serving people who are dying, and it's just kind of awkward that you end up both trying to raise money when you could be putting your energy together.”
While at the beginning of the integration process, there was some fear and uncertainty, Paquette said the Warmhearts community is now looking at the merger as a positive thing.
“It was a tough decision,” he said. “It wasn't simple. In the end, we looked at it, more or less as it was the right thing to do to assist clients.”
Therrien said the hospice will ensure it honours all the work Warmhearts has done in its 25-year history. It did the same thing when Maison Vale Hospice opened in 2008, replacing its forerunner, Maison La Paix, he said.
“This is not forgotten in the community,” Therrien said.