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Four-bed hospice to be built in Squamish

Facility made possible through $300,000 Whistler Blackcomb Foundation grant
Hospice Vancouver Coastal Health and the Squamish Hospice Society will build a new end-of-life care facility in Squamish. photo submitted

Sea to Sky residents requiring end-of-life care will soon be able to receive it a little closer to home.

Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) and the Squamish Hospice Society are teaming up to build a four-bed hospice in Squamish, all made possible thanks to a $300,000 donation from the Whistler Blackcomb (WB) Foundation.

"We very much wanted to just recognize the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation," said Sue Lawther, a director on the Squamish Hospice Society board.

"What an amazing contribution ... They give so much money throughout the corridor and we're just thrilled that they chose the hospice as one of their projects to grant to."

The funding was announced May 3 when the Foundation presented the Squamish Hospice Society with a cheque at the future home of the hospice. To that end, the hospice, expected to open in spring 2019, will be named the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation Sea-to-Sky Community Hospice.

"Compassionate hospice care is essential for our corridor and we are delighted to be able to support the construction of this much-needed facility," said Mei Madden, executive director of the WB Foundation, in a release. "In addition to our regular funding, the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation's goal is to support one everlasting legacy project per year that will benefit residents of our local communities."  

The creation of a dedicated hospice has been a long time coming for the corridor since the Squamish Hospice Society had its first beginnings in 1991. The group disbanded in 2003 before being reborn in 2006.

"The aspect of a hospice is really just to provide care for the Sea to Sky residents without them having to go out of the Sea to Sky corridor," Lawther explained, adding that "the formula" typically sees four beds for every 10,000 in population.

Currently, the entire corridor—home to approximately 40,000 residents—only has one room at the Squamish General Hospital dedicated to hospice care.

"Because of the pressures on our health care system, it's not always available for hospice care ... People would either have to get care to come into their home or they would have to leave the corridor and go down to Vancouver, which makes it really difficult for your relatives to come visit," Lawther said.

After investigating several options for where the four beds could be located, the Society opted to claim the currently unused south wing at VCH's Hilltop House, a residential-care facility connected to Squamish General.

"When you're in your last days of life, there's quite a few services that you might need to draw on," said Lawther.

"Unfortunately neither Whistler nor Pemberton have those on-call people, but Squamish, with its relationship to the hospital; it has those people. That again makes it the ideal location.

"Just to be in an environment that's peaceful, serene; you're not being hassled by that daily hustle and bustle of a hospital, and yet you require services that you can't have at home—whether it be morphine or whatever's required ... to make your last days as comfortable as possible."

The new hospice will include private bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms, a foldout couch so family members can stay, a central living/dining/kitchen area and sacred space, as well as a nursing station, medication room and consultation office. The hospice will also have a family laundry room and a shower/tub room.

The WB Foundation's donation came through the popular Founder's Pass program, Lawther said. In addition to the WB Foundation grant, the Squamish Hospice Society provided funding gathered from the Squamish-Lillooet Regional Hospital District Board, VCH, the provincial government and private donations, while VCH will provide an annual operating budget of $566,000.