By Dennis Paquette
Hospice San Miguel was born in 2007 out of the personal losses of family members and friends by three of its founders. After a year-long legal process, Hospice accepted its first patient and has gone on to serve hundreds more. Hospice San Miguel AC is an historic organization in being the first in Mexico, and the only Hospice that does not charge for its services.
Hospice also began in the period of financial prosperity. 2007 was the boom year of the US economy. Most of Hospice’s money comes from the expat community so this was a great time to start a charitable organization. Hospice San Miguel is 100% financed by charitable donations; Hospice’s services are provided free to patients and families.
With the collapse of the US economy in 2008, charitable donations for all the more than 120 nonprofit organizations in San Miguel fell. All are competing for the same dollars and many of these organizations, like Hospice, are in trouble today.
New organizations attract interest. When Hospice began, there were many volunteers. Today, with a smaller population of US citizens here in San Miguel, there are fewer volunteers. Of those volunteers, most want to be involved in direct patient care (fluent Spanish required), but there are many other tasks equally important that need volunteer attention, tasks that no one has wanted to tackle.
Perhaps the most important of those tasks is serving as a board member, because active board members are the life-force of an organization. Hospice, like all groups, needs active board members who will serve as volunteer coordinators, as officers, as fund raisers, etc. Board members should also be in San Miguel year-round, often difficult to find in an affluent expat community. Community leaders speak about how vital and important Hospice’s services are, but none has agreed to be on the board. Without a stable group, the few doing the work exhaust themselves.
Over the last many months, the number of Hospice patients has averaged around 14 per month. Hospice has a very small administrative staff and incredibly minimal operating expenses. The overwhelming bulk of our budget pays for medical personnel to visit patients and families in their homes, usually one nurse and one physician visit per patient per week. By US standards, these expenses are tiny, but the reality is they amount to around US$5,000 per month.
For at least three years, Hospice has struggled against financial realities but the board and staff have had to face the truth that, without adequate and continuous community help, both financial and volunteers and board members, it cannot continue. Hospice can no longer risk not being able to meet payroll or pay rent or telephone. Hospice has staged many fundraising events, but no one recent event has raised even one month’s operating expenses. It is “angels” that keep non-profit organizations alive, not events, and while Hospice has had “angels” in the past, Hospice simply does not have enough “angels”.
Part of the problem is that there are not enough people who are part of the solution.
With incredible sadness for a community which obviously needs Hospice services, for a group of future patients who will be left without care, Hospice San Miguel AC will care for its current patients but it will essentially cease operations in June. Hopefully, something will fill the void.