No date set for reopening of Sunshine Hospice
SUNSHINE Hospice at Doonan was operating under "an unsustainable business model" and can't reopen without significant changes which could include becoming registered as a private hospital, admits board chairman Dr Frank Lewins.
Dr Lewins said the hospice, formerly known as Katie Rose Cottage, would reopen, however, no date can be announced.
"We will reopen and, when we do, it will be permanent."
Dr Lewins spoke to the Daily to "set the record straight".
Last week volunteers at the five hospice op shops were threatening to go on strike due to uncertainty over the future of the hospice.
The op shops are the major revenue source for the hospice, raising around $750,000 every year.
However, Dr Lewins said that still left the hospice with a $300,000-400,000 operating budget deficit.
"We have really dedicated volunteers … their heart is in the right place and we couldn't operate without them.
"All the money we are making through the op shops and at fundraising events like our monthly sausage sizzle at Bunnings is going straight into the bank for when the hospice reopens.
"That money is not being used for any other purpose."
Dr Lewins said he would like everyone involved with the hospice to be "on the same page".
"I would like to see the disenchantment that seems to exist to be resolved as quickly as possible and I want everyone on the same page.
"I know they are concerned and I understand their frustrations but I'm in the same boat; I'm a volunteer too.
"It hasn't been easy dealing with all the various stakeholders and our dealings with politicians … we are told we are getting funding per bed night and suddenly there's a change of government.
"If anyone has any concerns about the board, I would like them to speak to me or another board member but, ultimately, we have been truthful.
"I wouldn't be associated with the charity if I didn't think there was a realistic possibility of realising our goal (to reopen)."
Dr Lewins said if the hospice was registered as a private hospital, it would open the doors to government funding and patient eligibility for private health rebates, but it would also require a new, purpose-built facility.
"If we had to go down the private hospital path we wouldn't lose that 'home away from home' aspect that makes the hospice so unique.
"There is a possibility we could buy some of the land where we are now, but it comes down to money. I would love someone to come along and bequeath $1.5million."
Dr Lewins said the board "had no choice" but to close the hospice when it did in December last year.
"We had to pull the plug at that moment where we knew we could still pay the staff entitlements."
Dr Lewins did admit that a business partnership with an established entity was a possibility.
"We have been exploring several solutions during the past seven months.
"I can't disclose who we are talking to because we are at a delicate part at this stage of the negotiations and it's commercial in confidence.
"I will say, I am not walking away."
Long-time supporter of the hospice, John Hartley, whose 102-year-old mother spent her final days at Sunshine Hospice, says he has full confidence in the board members.
He said was confident long-term strategies around fundraising, partnerships and formulating a workable business model were being addressed.
Mr Hartley said he was concerned by the fact that the closest palliative care beds currently available on the Sunshine Coast are at Dove Cottage in Caloundra Hospital.
"It's too far for family members from the Noosa area to have to travel … we need this hospice."