The hospice's place in the community

The Otago Community Hospice. Photo: ODT files
The Otago Community Hospice. Photo: ODT files
Worthy causes abound, and right up there among the most admirable has to be the Otago Community Hospice.

This is Hospice Awareness Week and the hospice street appeal is tomorrow, part of mammoth fundraising undertaken every year.

The organisation this year is spreading the message that, while it is based in Northeast Valley in Dunedin and that is where its inpatient beds are, more than 75% of patients are actually cared for entirely in a community setting.

Interestingly, too, only about half of community visits are in Dunedin. The rest are spread across Central, South and North Otago.

It might also surprise some that, these days, about a quarter of those using a hospice service have a non-cancer diagnosis, the likes of chronic respiratory, neurological or renal disease.

Hospice services provide free palliative care to patients whose needs exceed those provided from the likes of GPs, district nurses and hospitals. Just about everyone in Otago knows someone who has received hospice assistance.

It was only 10 years ago the hospice was forced to campaign to save services in the face of large funding shortfalls. The Otago Daily Times then helped as a catalyst in the Help the Hospice campaign, and businesses, charities, organisations and individuals responded generously.

They continue to do so, as each year the hospice raises more money as it grows and as the need for its services increases. This year it has had to raise $2.4million, a huge amount in a small community. Turnover is about $6million and a little over 60% comes via the Southern District Health Board.

Because good palliative care is essential, there are good arguments the Government's share should be increased.

There is no doubt, nevertheless, the fundraising efforts and heavy and continuing commitment amplifies community support for the hospice. The endeavours prompt pride and society strength and ''social capital''. Trust, reciprocity and co-operation are enhanced.

The fundraising events, the work of 350-plus volunteers and all the giving and sharing is a strain for many of those who put in the hard work and commitment. But individuals, organisations and society as a whole also receive through giving. Returned is the satisfaction of giving to a good cause, of helping fellow citizens, of being part of a healthy community.

Hopefully, as well, this awareness of community connection encourages the paid staff, now numbering about 100, in their tasks - whether in Dunedin, in the teams in Cromwell, Balclutha and Oamaru, or elsewhere around the province.

They know they work for a cause with sound community backing, and with patients, families and friends during a special, challenging and sensitive time towards the end of patients' lives.

One of the fundraising's biggest successes had been the hospice shops. They now account for about 40% of fundraising income, and about 230 of the volunteers work for them. Ten years ago there was one shop. Now there are seven.

In the last financial year, another 28% came from donations, 16% from grants and trust income, 15% from special events and 1% from funeral donations.

The Otago Community Hospice began in 1999, and it can be proud of its achievements.

Proud, too, can be all those who have supported the hospice and who continue to do so.

Add a Comment