Huron Shores Hospice needs community backing

First bed to be located at Tiverton Park Manor

By Barb McKay

There is a strong case to develop a residential hospice in the Municipality of Kincardine, but the project will need community support, both financially and through volunteer efforts, to make it happen.

That was the message from the Huron Shores Hospice steering committee during a public meeting held at the Davidson Centre last Tuesday evening to discuss the project. Approximately 100 people came out to hear about the plan the committee has been diligently working on for the past four years. Itrecently submitted its business plan to the South West Local Health Integration Network (SW LHIN) and has applied for registered charitable status.

Committee member Peggy Zeppieri said the plan was put in motion at the urging of local physicians who are concerned for patients who require palliative care. There are no provincially-funded palliative care beds at the Kincardine hospital, which means patients must either try and find a bed at a long-term care facility, often in a different community, or try and arrange for services at home. The burden of care often falls to family members.

Dr. Damian Gunaratne is the newest member of the steering committee and attended last week’s meeting. He said he has had the honour of caring for patients as they reach the end of their lives and has witnessed the benefits of hospice care first hand.

“I’ve always had a passion for residential hospice because I have seen it work, both in large cities and in rural areas.”

There are few residential hospices in southwestern Ontario. The closest to Kincardine include London, Kitchener and the Residential Hospice of Grey-Bruce in Owen Sound. The latter opened in 2013, provides six beds and is in the process of building a new facility - the Chapman House - which will add two beds. Three residents from Kincardine and neighbouring communities have used the hospice and one Tiverton resident arrived there last week.

“The problem with the hospice in Owen Sound is that it is quite a distance, particularly in the winter,” said committee member Cheryl Cottrill.

Statistics show that Bruce County’s senior population is expected to double within 20 years and only one third of residents who require palliative care support annually receive it. But even though Kincardine has been identified as a municipality that needs a hospice the process to obtain government funding is arduous. While the long-term plan is to build a stand-alone three-bed facility, the committee is getting creative to provide hospice support to those with the greatest need by early next year.

Huron Shores Hospice has a verbal agreement with Tiverton Park Manor to create one hospice suite in its residence. The suite will feature two furnished rooms – one for patients and the second for family members – with a shared bathroom. Cottrill said the room will be beautifully and warmly decorated and patients will have the option to bring their own items from home. There will also be entertainment systems in both rooms and Wi-Fi access. The hospice bed would be available to residents from Kincardine, Huron-Kinloss Township, South Bruce and Saugeen Shores. Access to the bed would be determined by a team of local physicians.

Cottrill said having the bed at Tiverton Park Manor will enable Huron Shores Hospice to build expertise – a requirement to qualify for provincial funding. The challenge, she stressed, is that the next round of funding is not expected to become available for at least two years and will only cover one-third of operational costs. The remainder will need to obtained through sponsorships and fundraising.

The steering committee is aiming to raise $310,000 to open the suite at Tiverton Park Manor next year and cover operational expenses for two years.

“We know this is a lot to ask of our community, but we believe everyone deserves to end their life with dignity, surrounded by loved ones in a compassionate environment,” Cottrill said, “and we believe a residential hospice will do that.”

Duncan Hawthorne, honorary chairof the Hearts for Hospice fundraising campaign, surprised the committee by flying in from the U.K. for the meeting. Hawthorne, former Bruce Power CEO,and his wife Lesley donated $20,000 to jump-start the effort.

“It is a long process, but there is a plan and that is really important,” he said, adding that he is impressed with the team that is in place to lead the project. “What sets this community apart is its generosity. So many people are willing to give.”

Linda Bowers has added to the campaign with a $2,500 donation. The committee is in the process of organizing three fundraising events to be held next year and in 2018 – a golf tournament, Hike for Hospice and Handbags for Hospice – and will also accept donations.

The committee made a presentation to the Municipality of Kincardine council during its meeting last Wednesday and asked to be considered for a $5,000 grant to help cover interim costs while it waits to receive registered charity status, expected in six months’ time. The money would cover travel expenses for meetings, sponsorship materials and training for hospice volunteers through the SW LHIN. Council will consider the funding request during its budget deliberations later this year.

Fundraising will not be limited to the initial $310,000 goal, the committee has stressed. It will continue to work towards its ultimate goal of opening a standalone facility by 2019-2020 and developing a centre of excellence for hospice and palliative care by 2021-2022 that will allow it to join forces with existing services in the community to provide education programs, day wellness and respite programs, hospice visiting programs, community support, spiritual support, bereavement programs and advanced care planning. Huron Shores Hospice has been in talks with Residential Hospice Grey-Bruce to potentially share senior staff and resources.