Volunteers investigating palliative care options

Rachelle Stein-Wotten

Sounder News

Tuesday, July 3 2018

A group of Gabriolans are exploring ways to expand on-island palliative care services.

Patsy Ludwick has been involved in the Gabriola Health and Wellness Collaborative, a collective of more than 30 organizations as well as community members involved in addressing gaps in services for certain populations on the island. 

Palliative care includes community nursing services, community rehabilitation services, home support, respite for caregivers and residential hospice care. 

At-home palliative and end-of-life care requires multiple supports. As Ludwick put it, “it takes a village to help someone die at home in a natural way that we used to practice.”

Currently, Gabriolans who want to receive end-of-life care on the island rather than in-hospital can access support from Nanaimo Integrated Care Team via Island Health and telephone support through the province-wide After Hours Palliative Nursing Service.

According to an Island Health representative, there are no plans to bring hospice beds to Gabriola.

While attending a meeting of the Gabriola Health and Wellness Collaborative last fall, Ludwick committed to visit one model of care to see if it would work on Gabriola. She and eight other volunteers recently visited Ty Watson House in Port Alberni, a four-bed hospice run by Alberni Valley Hospice Society, which also provides respite care for caregivers and community services such as counselling. Located in a 105-year-old heritage home, the house has an agreement with Island Health who provides the nursing care while the hospice society handles everyday needs such as meals and maintains the house and property. 

The house provides the same model of care that someone would receive in their own home if they were to access Island Health’s Home and Community Care services. Residents receive care from their personal physicians; a licensed practical nurse and a community health worker are on site and a registered nurse is on call.

Nursing care costs  at the house are covered by Island Health. 

Hospitality services cost residents around $37 per day. With only a handful of staff, over 100 volunteers support the house and community services.

Ty Watson House manager Chris Mellin explained the licence Alberni Valley Hospice Society has with the health authority was made over 10 years ago and remains unique as the health authority is not issuing such licences anymore.

Ludwick said, “While this may not be the model we can provide on Gabriola.

“We wanted to go there to catch their spirit.” 

She said she believes Gabriolans’ willingness to volunteer as well as the island’s quality of doctors, urgent care and paramedics are strong building blocks for establishing a palliative care network. 

“It isn’t to say that we necessarily need a building,” she said. “We know it’s something Gabriolans would appreciate having here.”