Sea to Sky's first hospice facility coming to Squamish 

Four-bed palliative care centre expected to open in 2019

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - END OF LIFE CARE  The province announced funding for a four-bed hospice facility in Squamish on Tuesday, Jan. 3. Located in the Hilltop House, pictured, the centre is expected to open in 2019.
  • photo submitted
  • END OF LIFE CARE The province announced funding for a four-bed hospice facility in Squamish on Tuesday, Jan. 3. Located in the Hilltop House, pictured, the centre is expected to open in 2019.

Squamish will be the home of the Sea to Sky's first palliative care facility, according to a provincial announcement on Tuesday, Jan. 3.

The four-bed hospice will be going into an unused space in the Hilltop House, thanks in part to $400,000 in provincial funding as part of the $1 million Victoria has committed to palliative care across B.C. The province will also cover the centre's operational costs. That leaves the Squamish Hospice Society with $1.34 million in fundraising before the facility's anticipated 2019 opening.

The society's Dr. Judith Fothergill said the project has been 10 years in the making, and will serve a critical need in the corridor.

"While we have a wonderful community hospital, it is a very busy acute care hospital with lots of hustle and bustle and not the ideal environment for someone at the end of life and their families," she said.

The hospice beds will go into a space designed to "create a tranquil, homelike atmosphere with facilities to support families who want to stay there," according to Fothergill.

The society considered several different options, including building a brand-new facility as part of Hilltop House, but ultimately decided to renovate the existing space.

"Realistically, we hope our society can raise this amount of money, and we thought the more expensive options were beyond us," Fothergill added.

Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said the hospice beds would be a welcome addition to the corridor.

"We've seen a number of longtime community members who have passed away over the course of the last three or four years and the necessity for palliative beds has been obvious with the passing of those people," she said. "We know that our baby boomer bulge is aging, so this is certainly something that we're interested in seeing occur."

The facility is intended for patients in the last three months of their lives, and will also offer "respite care" for people on a palliative program.

"So, for people who are close to end of life, being cared for at home, when there's caregiver burnout, then we could admit for a weekend and give the caregiver a break," Fothergill explained.

The provincial government has committed to doubling the number of palliative beds in the province over the next few years, offering an alternative to acute care facilities that are not designed to accommodate end-of-life care.

"This is more purpose built and considers a whole variety of issues," said Sea to Sky MLA Jordan Sturdy.

The hospice society will now consider fundraising options for the new facility. To donate, visit www.squamishhospice.com.

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