Care will be world-class at new £13m Northern Ireland Hospice, says doctor
The new £13m state-of-the-art Northern Ireland Hospice will transform end-of-life care here and provide world-class facilities when it opens this week, a doctor has said.
After two years of construction and ongoing fundraising, the building will officially open its doors on Wednesday.
It has an inpatient unit complete with 18 private en suite bedrooms, a rehabilitation suite, day hospice services, a community nursing hub and a dedicated education and research centre.
Families of loved ones who were cared for in the previous hospice have praised the new facility.
The adult hospice will have the equipment and staff expertise to enable it to reach out beyond cancer care and offer palliative and end-of-life services to those with conditions such as dementia, motor neurone disease and respiratory illnesses.
Dr Claire White, a consultant in palliative medicine, has been with the NI Hospice since 2010.
She described it as an exciting time for the people who work there and said that the care patients and loved ones will receive will be much improved.
The new hospice will allow for 20% more patients to be looked after, and improved facilities will allow family members to stay overnight and be with their loved ones when necessary.
"We moved from Somerton Road three-and-a-half-years ago to Whiteabbey and are now ready to move back," she explained.
"The facility will be fabulous and we are really excited about moving back.
"We have 18 en suite rooms, which will make a real difference to what we had in the past.
"We had patients in shared bays, which at times is appropriate, but for others it can be quite difficult for families, with a lack of privacy."
The NI Hospice cares for 3,000 adults with life-limiting illnesses and their families annually.
It costs £6m a year to keep it up and running, and 60% of this figure must be raised through voluntary donations. Dr White praised the public for their generous support after millions of pounds were raised for the new development.
"We have had fabulous support from the public," she said.
"It seems they have really engaged with the new build and the relatives and friends of past patients have really been involved in the fundraising.
"That has been really important; it shows the value they have placed in the service, that they are willing to come back and fundraise for the hospice so that we can go on and care for future patients.
"It is a very important legacy for families of patients who have died here."
Pauline Kidney's mother-in-law Elsie received care in the previous hospice in her final weeks.
Touring the new building for the first time, the 48-year-old teacher and her husband Jim explained how important the service was for families and their loved ones.
The couple said the new facility will totally transform care for patients.
"It got to the stage where we were waiting to go into nursing homes and we were also waiting for a hospice bed," explained Pauline.
"There was nowhere we felt was suitable. Then we got the call that there was a hospice bed and it was Heaven-sent.
"She was really looked after so well. The other families there, we cried with them when their loved ones passed away and had our coffees and teas all the time together."
Pauline said the NI Hospice team went above and beyond in doing what they could during an emotional time.
"Jim's daughter lived in London, and the nurses arranged to have the portable phone by her bed at certain times to call so she could talk to her," she said.
"I just thought, you don't get that in hospital or care homes.
"They gave that extra step that was so kind, it was massive. Elsie was all about family. There was a community and extended family feeling."