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Hopes rise for full hospice inpatient bed service

Hospice Wairarapa general manager Suzie Adamson. PHOTO/FILE

Hospice manager Suzie Adamson has steadfastly worked to get Wairarapa a hospice with full inpatient facilities. She explained to Jem Traylen why the region is missing out.

We are sitting in Suzie’s office, looking out through French doors at a picturesque garden courtyard, complete with a fountain and a solitary white rose basking in the autumn sun.

She saw my gaze and reflected: “One of the things I love about the job is that it reminds me how precious life is”.

For Suzie, making people’s end-of-life experience as comfortable and as meaningful as possible has been dear to her heart ever since she started as a gardening volunteer 21 years ago.

As general manager, she can look back on the many wonderful experiences hospice has provided patients.

It’s hard not to shed a tear as she recounts them: the farmer taken up in a helicopter so he could be afforded a god’s eye view of the land and animals he had worked with for so long; the woman set up on a romantic spa date with her husband; the man taken on a last walk with his dog up Lansdowne Hill.

“The hospice philosophy is listening to what people say is important to them and making sure we support them to live every moment they’ve got left.”

But Suzie regretted there is still one service they cannot provide – the chance to receive hospice care as an inpatient at their Te Kowhai facility in Renall St, Masterton.

Wellington, Hutt Valley, Palmerston North and most other regions provide such a service.

“It’s that postcode-health thing. So we want to bring that equity of choice to our community and say to people if you can’t die at home, an option you might like to think about is dying at Hospice Wairarapa when we have those inpatient beds.”

At present, they can only deliver support services to patients who live at home, or in aged care facilities, or perhaps a hospital bed.

But consider a couple in their eighties – one has just received a terminal diagnosis while the other has had a stroke and cannot care for them. What if they do not want to go into an aged care facility? Or consider a mother in her thirties with two young children. What options do they have?

That is why their board’s strategic focus is on establishing inpatient end of life [palliative] care.

Board chairman Gavin Hodder said they are finally on the cusp of achieving their goal.

“It’s taken us 11 years to establish a position where we can legitimately look at hospice palliative beds within the region,” he said.

They are both very excited by the discussions they are having with the Five Rivers Medical Centre being developed in Greytown.

Stage one of the development is due to open this year, and the business case for an inpatient hospice unit is being considered as part of the next stage.

In the meantime, the board is still working on upgrading Te Kowhai and exploring other possibilities such as getting hospice-focused beds into rest homes or retirement villages.

“I always tell Suzie that I’m one for kicking every stone over in the paddock to see what’s underneath it, to understand what opportunities exist and not limit it to just one or two,” Hodder said.

One day, hopefully soon, a bed will occupy the space where Suzie’s desk is, and it will be an inpatient, surrounded by the people they love, enjoying that lovely view out through the French doors.

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