Meet Gail Skyes: CEO – Helderberg Hospice

Categories: People & Places.

Gail’s journey into Hospice started about 5 years ago when her husband was a hospice patient at Helderberg Hospice. She always knew about hospice and what they were about, but it was only when her husband was admitted that she had actual personal involvement and experience with it, which had a major positive impact on her life.

Gail expressed how wonderful the carers were to him in his time of need as well as expressing how grateful she was for them because she does not know how she or her family would have coped or handled the situation of her husband’s illness without them (hospice).

Her husband unfortunately passed on, but he passed on with respect and dignity due to the hospice care. From that day onwards Gail made it her mission to help Helderberg Hospice and other hospices in the same way she was helped and touched so positively by them.

Shortly after Gail’s husband passed on she decided to come to Helderberg hospice to volunteer and help out. The volunteer co-ordinator expressed her concern about her involvement being rather soon after her husband’s death, and Gail agreed and said she would see how she manages. Gail ended up doing just fine, saying that in many ways helping out and volunteering for the people in need helped to heal the pain of her husband’s death.

Gail volunteered in many departments namely; reception, catering committee, fund raising committee, basically anywhere that help was needed.She took a bereavement course and helped people at home as well as at the hospice.

She felt such a need to help hospice because of the way they helped her and at times she felt and wished there was so much more she could do. Gail stated that: “I feel personally that there is nobody out there who can help you the way hospice can.”

We then asked Gail about how she became the CEO. She stated that the previous CEO was leaving and she heard the opening was there and she thought to herself this could be the perfect step for her to take so that she can whole heartedly give back to hospice the way they gave to her. “I would love to do more and so applying for this job I saw as the perfect opportunity for just that” said Gail.

When the job was advertised, Gail applied, and went through a very lengthy interview process that seemed to go on forever she joked! Eventually, very proud about it, she landed the job in March this year and she has loved it so far and of course loved the different types of “challenges” one faces when being the CEO of a NGO, compared to a corporate.

Gail stated that she believes strongly in the open door policy and that she is always willing to hear what her staff members have to say, whether positive or negative, because at the end of the day your organisation is only as strong as your people. So she has been very open to suggestions from staff, as well as complaints, affirmations, and so forth that her staff experience.

Every Monday Gail sits down with the home-based sisters (6 qualified sisters and one supervisor) and has a meeting with the staff as well to talk about how things are going, how things went for the home-based sisters(over the weekend) and what the plans are for the week with regard to visits and check-ups.

Gail has pleaded with everyone to become more informed about hospice and the great work that they do.  In October there will be a drive around World Hospice Palliative Care Day detailing what the different departments in hospice do and what the community can do to help hospice and what hospice can do to help the community.She feels people need to realise what many people do for hospice and how vital they are whether it be through donations, fund raising events, volunteering or just spreading the good word about hospice to their families and peers.

If you would like to know more about Helderberg Hospice visit their website

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