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Hospice: ‘Making every day count’

Year 8 St Matthew’s Collegiate School students Kaitlyn Williams, Alex Antis, Poppy Tatham, and Phoebe Bell collect for Hospice Wairarapa’s annual street appeal. PHOTO/SOUMYA BHAMIDIPATI

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While the passing of the End of Life Choice bill is a significant step for healthcare in general, Hospice Wairarapa remains unaffected by the legislation change.

Board chairman Gavin Hodder said the bill raised only a hypothetical question for the organisation, which did not have any palliative care beds.

That could change, however, as it was in talks to set up an in-patient unit at Five Rivers Medical Centre in Greytown. If that happened, the hospice board would vote on whether to provide assisted dying services.

Although Hospice New Zealand provided governance and direction, the decision on assisted dying would ultimately be left up to the local board.

“For now, we still maintain the philosophy of Hospice New Zealand in that we don’t prolong or hasten death,” Hodder said.

An in-patient unit was much-needed in Wairarapa.

“There’s a philosophy out there that everyone would like to die at home, but does everyone have the ability or circumstances to do that?

“I think it’s the missing piece of the jigsaw of palliative care in Wairarapa.”

However, Hospice Wairarapa was carefully considering the costs involved in opening and running the unit.

“We’re looking at resourcing models and funding models,” Hodder said. “We’re just taking our time in making sure that it’s sustainable. It’s a huge opportunity, but we need to get it right.

“You only get the dollar once, and you’ve got to spend it wisely.”

Hospice Wairarapa held its annual street appeal on Friday, with a collection point in every town across the region. And it was not just about “shaking the bucket”.

“It’s an opportunity to be in public to discuss hospice … making sure that every single person is aware of the services available to them and that they are free,” Hodder said.

“I think there’s a huge benefit in having younger people being aware of hospice. Then they can bring the service to the family.”

Eighty per cent of the organisation’s funding came from its retail stores, the newest of which opened in Greytown post-lockdown.

“It’s made our budget come right again,” Hodder said, “It’s also enabled us to move those funds to our patient services.”

Most regions’ palliative care services were driven by hospice; however, Wairarapa used a multi-agency approach. While this meant patients had better access to services, it could make the system confusing.

“People in Wairarapa receive a great palliative care; there’s no two ways about it,” he said, “We just want to make sure that we are continuing to meet a gold standard.”

Increasing knowledge of the hospice was part of a larger plan to “future-proof” services for Wairarapa’s ageing and growing population.

“In the future, I’d really like the process of dying to be taught in an educational programme,” Hodder said. “I’d like hospice and death to be talked about on a daily basis. I think, as a culture, we don’t talk about death very well.

“Hospice can be seen to be about dying, but it’s not. It’s about living and making every day count.”

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