KENTVILLE – The day has arrived, and ground has been broken at the Valley Hospice centre in Kentville after nearly two decades of planning and fundraising.
Valley Hospice Foundation chair Diana Patterson raised her arms and cheered as she formally announced the news in Kentville on Oct. 26 in front of fellow foundation members, volunteers and other members of the community.
Patterson herself said she could hardly believe the day has finally arrived, and said it felt “incredible and joyful.”
“It’s almost, ‘pinch me, it’s finally happening,’ because we’ve worked so hard, and everybody here has a connection to it,” she said.
The hospice will be the province’s second, and has been a long time coming for many members of the community who’ve campaigned hard and raised funds for the centre’s construction.
The building will be situated east of the hospital and adjacent to the Beacon House in an area completely surrounded by trees. Patterson described the kind of care it will provide palliative patients, including that each of its ten rooms will have its own door opening directly onto the trees.
Kings West MLA and cabinet minister Leo Glavine was on hand to deliver remarks on behalf of the province and confirmed a tender for construction has officially been awarded.
“What a wonderful day that we have now arrived at this point – and we actually know it’s going to happen. That’s the great news, that’s the big news,” he said.
“The story is the unbelievable…, unwavering commitment that this would become a reality at some point.”
Among those present was Nancy Chipman, who has volunteered with the hospital in various capacities like its VON service since 1994.
Chipman’s sister was receiving home care via VON nurses when she died in 1994. Chipman said that she, and so many other families like hers, “do not know what palliative care is” until someone close to them is in need of it.
She also recalled several members of the original hospice committee from the early 1990s – many of whom also passed before the groundbreaking ceremony.
Chipman said that it’s “absolutely fabulous” despite the delay that palliative care patients now have access to the hospice, and hopes families see the hospice as a place “they can feel joy and sorrow” in more comfort than a hospital can provide.
Dr. Karen Burch was also present at the groundbreaking. She works as part of the hospital’s palliative care team, and said palliative patients who cannot receive care at home due to complex illnesses will remain in hospital until the hospice is opened.
She said despite excellent care delivered by all health professionals, hospitals “are not a setting designed for end of life care.”
“Most people would like to stay at their homes at the end of their life. This is why we continue to try to raise the capacity of providers in the valley, across disciplines… so people with complex illnesses can stay at home as long as they’re able to,” she said.
She said the hospice will not only “meet that need as a place where people are cared for in a peaceful setting,” but will also be a “critical resource” for all health professionals to learn about the delivery of palliative and end-of-life care.
“We imagine a place of excellence…where family doctors can follow with their patients’ care, and where learning professionals –medical residents, nursing students, and others – to learn about this particular area of healthcare,” she said.