SYDNEY, N.S. — Tucked off a forested side road near the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, you could be forgiven for thinking you had arrived at an exclusive spa.
Surrounded by an impossibly green manicured lawn, people work inside and out of the pale green shingled complex, nestled on Charles Herney Awti (Street) adjacent to Terry Way. They’re making last-minute changes and adjustments to the yet unnamed $5.4 million facility that will be devoted to making the final stages of life more bearable for people dealing with serious illnesses.
In addition to health care, pain management and comfort, those who will spend their last days at the 10-bed facility can be moved outside in their beds to view the property’s extensive Circle of Life gardens, sculptures and landscaping.
“No detail has been overlooked,” says Patricia Jackson, co-chair of Hospice Cape Breton.
Jackson, a former nurse, has been involved with hospice and palliative care in Cape Breton for 35 years. The new hospice has been her dream project for a long time and she’s excited to see it finally come to fruition, thanks to the steady ongoing generosity of Cape Bretoners.
“It’s really exciting, it really is,” says Jackson. “It’s the culmination of a dream for so many people — it’s the completion of the Circle of Care — home care, long-term care, hospital care, An Cala and now the hospice. It’s just amazing. A fully integrated service for patients and their families — it’s really amazing.”
The hospice is expected to be ready by Sept. 24 and open to patients by the end of October or early November. It is in addition to the An Cala Unit at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, which can take up to nine patients, and Jackson says the combination puts Cape Breton at the forefront of palliative care.
Cape Bretoners have been donating to the Palliative Care Society of Cape Breton County for years and participating in their many community events. These include special events like golf tournaments, memorial donations and legacy gifts, and often organizations like Rotary’s Ribfest and the Polar Bear Dip in Port Morien donate their proceeds from their events to the organization. The latest fundraising event, the upcoming Weekend Walk, Hike and Run for Hospice, takes place on Oct. 2 at the Coxheath Trails and the Coxheath Recreation Park. You can also purchase items from a donor catalogue that will be used at the hospice such as furniture and artwork and even shrubs for the outside gardens.
While the hospice build was $5.4 million, its actual cost is probably much more than that since local businesses participating in the project donated more work and effort than expected, adding particular touches that will improve the patient, family and staff experience, says Jackson. As well, Membertou donated the land and prepared it for construction, which alone would have cost $1.2 million. Operational costs such as nursing care will come to about $1.7 million annually and will be covered by Nova Scotia Health. Everything together results in a facility that combines the best of the community with what is needed to help patients.
“It was designed by the architect along with input from the service and from the community,” says Jackson. “So we were able to access really good information and what the needs for patients and families were. I think that is key. We didn’t just take a design out of a magazine — we met with the architect, we talked at length. This has been a seven-year project. We’re always working with the staff and what their needs are and so we’ve tried to incorporate the needs from the nursing perspective and the needs from the community’s perspective.”
Even so, another $250,000 is still needed for finishing touches and Jackson hopes Cape Bretoners will continue to be generous with their donations.
“We still need close to $250,000 but we’re close — we’re very excited to be at that level anyway at this point. We always accept help.”
Elizabeth Patterson is a culture and health reporter at the Cape Breton Post.