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The Globe and Mail

Proposed UBC hospice looks headed for approval

A locked gate blocks the entrance to the site of a proposed hospice on the University of British Columbia campus adjacent to a residential high-rise in Vancouver, on Friday January 14, 2011.

Darryl Dyck For The Globe and Mail/darryl dyck The Globe and Mail

A proposed hospice at the University of British Columbia is headed for potential approval next month after being delayed when some residents objected to the facility on what they described as cultural grounds.

The UBC board of governors is scheduled to consider the proposal in June, based on a May 25 staff report that recommends approval of the facility and says the university should help find other housing options for residents of the adjacent building who wish to move because of it.

The staff report describes steps UBC took to reach out to residents who objected to the hospice location, saying UBC worked with an immigrant services agency to arrange trips for residents to palliative care facilities such as Canuck Place and connect them with other services.

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The 15-bed hospice, a joint project of UBC's Faculty of Medicine and the Order of St. John, would be operated by Vancouver Coastal Health Authority. It was proposed in 2008. UBC considered several sites, including one that generated complaints from students, for the $10-million project. The current site for the proposed facility is near the Promontory, a high-rise condominium tower on the UBC campus. Many of the residents of the 94-unit building are recent immigrants from China, including some who say their cultural beliefs make it difficult or impossible to live next door to the dying.

Janet Fan, a spokeswoman for residents of the Promontory, said UBC continues to ignore residents' deeply-held cultural beliefs.

"The residents have been unfairly portrayed as opponents to hospice [facilities]" Ms. Fan said this week in an email. "We are not. We have visited various hospices and we think they are valuable facilities. We support building a hospice at UBC. The issue is the location where the harm done has been overlooked."

In a follow-up statement on Thursday, Ms. Fan said there is a "deep-rooted fear of living too close to the dying and the dead in our cultures" and that many of the residents of the building are struggling with physical and psychological strain resulting from their concerns.

In January, the university held an open house about the project. Residents went public with their concerns, igniting a firestorm of controversy over whether they were genuine or a front for worries that a hospice would hurt property values.

In response, UBC put the process on hold to consider feedback and concerns.

The UBC staff report says the university has weighed those concerns, including potential real estate impact. In the 19 years since a hospice opened in the Downtown Eastside, property values of nearby homes increased by more than 200 per cent, a consultant found. In Shaughnessy, where Canuck Place has operated for 14 years, detached home prices in the immediate area have increased by 138 per cent since the facility opened.

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UBC held another open house on the project this week. Ms. Fan, who is currently travelling in China, said residents received little notice and that she did not learn of the event in time to change her travel plans.

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About the Author
National correspondent

Based in Vancouver, Wendy Stueck has covered technology and business and now reports on British Columbia issues including natural resources, aboriginal issues and urban affairs. More

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