Catching up with the CEO of St Bernard’s Hospice: René Wienekus

Categories: People & Places.

Current CEO Rene Wienekus joined St. Bernard’s Hospice in 2003 shortly after she and her family moved to East London. After responding to an advert posted in the local newspaper, she was appointed Nursing Manager of the hospice. The new position involved changing the hospice from a volunteer-based and family run organisation to a professional business.

As Nursing Manager, Wienekus had to create structures that would govern and define St. Bernard’s within the palliative care community. Two years later, she took on more responsibility when she was appointed CEO, a position which she had always felt would allow her to implement new structures that would contribute to the reach and success of the hospice an in her words “make things happen”.

Once again, she and her team developed new structures, governance and accreditation, “all these policies we had to develop ourselves”. The newly implemented policies allowed for a restructuring that could cater directly to their immediate community. “Over the years we actually adopted and adjusted the service that we provided to the community according to society’s needs but still within the frame of our core business – that was always palliative care”.

In its aim to cater for community efficiently, St. Bernard’s had to make some cost effective decisions. In November 2013 the in-patient unit was cancelled “[it was] either close the IPU or close our doors in six months’ time” Wienekus said. After the closure, the IPU staff was moved into the home-based care program as an attempt to enhance it.

The shift to more focus on home-based care became the defining moment for the hospice and soon after they discovered what they would set them apart from other non-profit organisations offering palliative care.

Children became a growing concern once the home-based care program was focused on more “In East London at the time there weren’t many organizations looking after children and orphans and vulnerable children” as a result of this the organisation worked with the department of help to focus not only on the patients but those they came in contact with.

The Stoney Drift Project is an initiative by the hospice which works in collaboration with the home nurses in doing sputum tests on everyone present in each home where the hospice provides palliative care. TB is one of the main focuses of the Stoney Drift Projects and as such, the hospice has made great strides in providing care where it is needed. TB is becoming a more prevalent concern for St. Bernard’s so much so that they have implemented a policy to screen every patient that enters the hospice.

The project’s success has been due to its level of thoroughness and dedication. In the last six months the hospice has had 250 successful screenings.

Find out more about St Bernard’s Hospice here

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