Group fundraising to build Haldimand-Norfolk’s first hospice

·3 min read

A small group of Haldimand-Norfolk residents is hard at work on a multi-year plan to build the riding’s first hospice.

Formed in January 2020, the Norfolk Haldimand Community Hospice board used a $25,000 Ontario Trillium Foundation grant to make a website, produce educational videos and offer free grief and bereavement counselling to residents.

Its next goal is to build a six-bed hospice somewhere central to the two counties.

The committee counts among its ranks several people who know a thing or two about hospices, including Beth Ellis, the first executive director of the Dr. Bob Kemp Hospice in Hamilton, and Maureen Russell, former director of spiritual care at Bob Kemp.

At the moment, Haldimand-Norfolk residents in need of hospice care typically end up at Bob Kemp or Stedman Community Hospice in Brantford, which are “phenomenal” places in their own right, Ellis told The Spectator.

“But people want to stay as close to home as possible, and that’s all we’re trying to provide,” she said.

The committee envisions an 18,000-square-foot facility with six hospice beds, plus space to offer programs and a few extra beds for caregivers to stay over.

“As they’re getting close to the end, the family doesn’t want to leave,” Ellis said. “We look after the whole family unit, not just the person who happens to be in the bed.”

Cost is a major barrier. The estimate to build and furnish the new hospice is $11 million, and that price tag has gone up “substantially” in the past few years, Ellis said.

“It’s $650 per square foot at this particular moment to build a hospice,” she said. “We’re hoping it will slowly drop, but with today’s economy, inflation, we don’t know.”

The real catch could be where to build, as the $11-million estimate does not include the cost of the property.

“We’re looking for somebody to donate land,” Ellis said.

Once the building is open, the province will fund 60 per cent of the roughly $1.5 million it costs to staff and operate a six-bed hospice each year, Ellis said. The balance usually comes from donations.

The idea to build a hospice in Haldimand-Norfolk first came to Ellis and Russell in January 2020, after they recognized what Russell called a “window of opportunity” in the province’s stated goal to build more hospices, particularly in underserved rural communities.

The response to the grief and bereavement counselling was “excellent,” Ellis said, even as the planned group sessions turned into one-on-one phone or online appointments due to the pandemic.

The website and educational videos continue “to help our community better understand hospice palliative care,” Ellis added.

At a Trillium Foundation recognition event in Waterford last week, Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Bobbi Ann Brady congratulated the hospice board for its progress to date.

“I know how hard all of you work, and I know the passion that you all have for those faced with progressive, life-limiting illnesses,” said Brady.

“I can’t wait for the day that we’re celebrating the opening of a hospice in our community. It’s well overdue and very much needed.”

Ellis said spending one’s last days in a hospice that feels like home is worlds away from dying in a hospital ward.

“We’re not about death,” she said.

“We’re about living the fullest to the very last moment and supporting those around that person who is dying.”

J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator

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