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When hospital treatment is no longer a necessity, hospices provide a quiet setting for the terminally ill in the last days of their lives.

There are 40 hospice beds in the area served by the Vancouver Coastal Health - Vancouver, the North Shore, Richmond and the Sunshine Coast - but only the North Shore hospice is operated by Coastal Health.

The others are run by the Salvation Army, the St. James Community Service Society and Providence Health Care. Waiting lists range from a day to a week, and there is a nominal fee of about $30 a day, though it may be waived in cases of financial hardship.

Coastal Health says the average length of stay in its hospices is about 30 days.

Across British Columbia, there are 296 designated hospice beds among five regional health authorities, according to the Ministry of Health.

The ministry notes that specialized hospice palliative care services are offered by health authorities, further supported by hospice societies and their volunteers.

The hospices are licensed under the Community Care and Assisted Living Act, and are inspected and assessed to see that they meet health and safety standards.

Most deaths occur in a hospital, however. According to Coastal Health, 1,502 deaths occurred in hospitals in the first six months of 2010, compared with 711 in residential care, 508 at home and 235 in hospices.

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