October 5th two artists known as the Department of Public Memory held a memorial service with a twist.
Perram House used to be an 8-bed hospice where many of Toronto’s homeless and marginalized individuals went to spend their final days. That came to an end earlier this year when the board of the not-for-profit charity decided it could no longer afford to continue.
Whereas memorials are usually for people not services, the touching ceremony featured former staff and volunteers who spoke about how much Perram House meant to the community.
The Department of Public Memory creates signs that are placed about the city to remind us of the public services we have lost. While the sign temporarily went up October 5th, the artists are seeking city approval to permanently mount it in front of Perram House.
To watch a short video of the October 5th ceremony, click on the box below.
Private Donations: Such an odd thing to say
Perram House: October 5th public memorial of services lost
Perram House: Why health professionals increasingly don’t want to work in community agencies
Department of Public Memory
It was such an odd thing to say.
October 5th the two artists known as the Department of Public Memory held a memorial to Perram House, an eight-bed hospice that closed earlier this year (video to come).
One of the speakers at the event, a former employee, suggested that Perram House couldn’t work and that the end was as inevitable as it was for the palliative patients who spent their final days there.
Her argument suggested that the hospice had to be better integrated with other health services to succeed. Fair enough.
Surprisingly, rather than argue for more public funding, she suggested that hospices like Perram House wouldn’t be regarded as belonging to the community if these services were not partially funded through private donation. Say what?
She quickly cautioned that 50 per cent donation would be too much to handle. Perram House wasn’t nearly as dependent on private contributions. In fact, about 80 per cent of funding for Perram House was already public. It was the remaining 20 per cent that the board felt itself unable to raise.
It’s an odd notion that something cannot be regarded by the community as belonging to them without the intermediary of private donation.
Public services are lost one at a time, often incrementally.
Take the Shelburne Hospital. Once a partner site of Headwaters Health Care, services were removed from the community one-by-one until eventually the entire hospital closed with barely any protest.
The Ministry of Health prefers to place health services into community-based settings, but the sector is notoriously unstable, often reliant on volunteer donations to make up a percentage of operating costs. When those volunteer donations dry up, many small agencies shutter their facilities before the LHINs can even assess the impact on access to local health services.
Two Toronto artists who call themselves the “Department of Public Memory” are commemorating public services lost in their municipality. That includes placing signs around the city reminding residents of what was once there.
It’s a brilliant idea to illustrate how our city is changing and who is being left out in the process. Their latest project is one such small but valuable health agency that didn’t succeed.
The closure of eight downtown Toronto hospice beds is hardly creating buzz in the health care community. But it should.
Perram House hospice is not big enough to warrant major headlines, but it is symbolic of why the government’s policies around service transfers to community-based providers are so flawed.
Perram House gave its workers two days’ notice that the hospice will close on Wednesday. Up until this point, there was no indication that the operators were even considering closure. If you visit the Perram House website, as of this afternoon it still is promoting its services. There’s still a button to become a “friend” of Perram House. There’s still an endorsement from actor Eugene Levy, even if the internet link to the video doesn’t work anymore.
We don’t know when the Toronto Central LHIN found out about it, but they reported to us that three of the patients have been transferred to the Grace Hospital and two more are now at home in the hands of the Community Care Access Centre. They figure their job is done.
Eight hospice beds are now gone from the mix. This is not how health system planning is supposed to take place. There was no public consultation. There is no assessment of need. It is closing because the Perram House board has decided to do so.
Perram House’s board has offered no explanation for the sudden closure.