Hospice of Elgin repeats funding request to Elgin County

Construction of a 17,000 square foot Hospice of Elgin healthcare facility on South Edgeware Road, in St. Thomas, is underway.

“The community is finally just over the moon because this has been decades of planning and waiting and wanting and needing a hospice and now it is finally coming to life,” said Laura Sherwood, Interim Executive Director, Hospice of Elgin (Hospice). “Lots of hard work has been happening behind the scenes, but now the community can drive by and see significant progress.

“And the progress will be quick,” added Ms. Sherwood. “We’re well underway. The excavators, the shovel is in the ground officially, and doors will be open. It will take us about 12 to 14 months to get us through the build phase, and then a few short months after that, it all starts happening.

“I can visualize it,” she said. “I know every piece and part of how that building is going to look and feel, a cottage-like facility that’s tucked in the woods, really creating a welcoming space for the absolute best care for individuals and families.”

The start of construction acknowledges a $17-million campaign to build the palliative care facility with thanks to the foundations, corporations and individuals in and around the county, that contributed. The Government of Ontario contributed $2 million, and the City of St. Thomas donated the serviced 2.6-acre South Edgeware Road site. The Province is also committed to funding 55 percent of ongoing operational costs.

The treed lot overlooking Waterworks Park is next door to Monsignor Morrison Catholic School and down the street from Lockes Public School. Monsignor Morrison has already included the hospice into its curriculum, as a group of students and teachers circled the site on April 16, with plans to record construction with drawings and artwork.

“The children are just super excited about seeing the big machinery as well,” said Ms. Sherwood. (Thames Valley District School Board’s privacy regulations prevented Aylmer Express from snapping a picture of the children.) “It just goes to show you that hospice is all about life, all generations, and such a community celebration for us. That’s why we’re excited today.

“Death is part of life and if we do it really well and highlight all of the important life pieces, hospice can help take care of that final piece at the end of life and really caring for families,” she added. “When the kids see the building coming to life, they will get to see everything … really cool big equipment, helping make this happen. They will get to see the framing go up. Those kids will get to come in and do some of our taste testing from our kitchen. They will get to be part of our story of connecting to nature in that wooded environment. Such a wonderful partnership is going to be starting as we advance the build of our new hospice.”

There are 800 deaths in Elgin County every year, affecting 4,000 family members and friends, however Elgin is the only region in Southwestern Ontario without a hospice.

About 75 percent of Canadians would prefer to die at home, according to a 2018 survey, Canadian Institute for Health Information Access to Palliative Care in Canada. But only 15 percent do so. Most die in hospitals.

Joe Konecny, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express