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Hospice ward axe divides opinions

ON MAY 8, the closure of Pilgrims Hospice’s inpatient ward from 2016, with the loss of 16 beds, was announced. Chief executive Steve Auty said the change would help cope with increased demand in an aging population. Tim Bates has heard views both for and against….

WONDERFUL: Leah Carroll
WONDERFUL: Leah Carroll

BEREAVED mum Bev Carroll does not support the Pilgrims Hospices decision to close its inpatient service at Canterbury. Her daughter, Leah Carroll, died there in 2010, of a brain tumour. She was 31, and left behind two small children. Mrs Carroll, from Herne Bay, said she couldn’t imagine how her family could have coped without the option of the hospice.

Nurse

She said:

“We were looking after her at home, and she was having a nurse from the hospice come in to check up on her but, eventually, things just became too bad to keep her there. We phoned the nurse and she said ‘Alright, I’ll come round.’ And when she did, it didn’t take her long to tell us that she thought it was time for us to take her to the hospice. And my daughter was so frightened, because she had two small daughters of her own, but the nurse just said ‘It’s okay, you’re not going in there to die, you’re just going for a rest’.”

Leah was only in the hospice for one week on that occasion, but she had to return there later in the year, where she eventually died. Four years later, Bev still credits the hospice for helping her daughter, with a combination of home care, and hospice services. She said:

“Everyone cared for her so much. They had her laughing, and joking, and we used to come in, and whenever a carer came, they would light up the room. It’s a wonderful place. We would not have been able to cope with having her at home. We’re not experienced carers, or anything. It just wouldn’t have worked.”

Express your views at a public meeting in city

IN RESPONSE to the overwhelming criticism of the decision to close the inpatient beds at Canterbury, the Pilgrims Hospices has arranged a public meeting to discuss the site’s future. The meeting will take place at the Canterbury Academy on Knights Avenue on May 30 at 7pm. It is already believed that the 500-capacity venue has been booked out, with many volunteers telling the Times late last week that their efforts had been unsuccessful. The hospice has stated that, if more than 500 people have applied, another meeting will have to be scheduled. The meeting will be chaired by Canterbury and Whitstable MP Julian Brazier, who has taken an interest in the story, saying:

“I support the vision to provide better services for those dying at home and want to work with Pilgrims and the local community to ensure we can keep inpatient beds in Canterbury as well.”

The meeting will allow people to ask questions of trustees and senior management after a presentation outlining the details.

I came round to changes

THE decision to close the inpatient beds at the Canterbury Pilgrims hospice in 2016 has drawn passionate arguments from people on both sides of the debate, most of whom have had relatives and loved ones use the hospice’s beds in th past. Ella Brocklebank, whose father died at the Canterbury inpatient unit and has since raised £11 ,000 for the charity, is one of those backing the trustees and chief executive. She has urged people to not to turn their back on them. She sad:

“I too was shocked, saddened, and I have to admit a little angry at first. But my quick judgement soon changed to clarity and huge empathy for Steve Auty and his team.”

Ms Brocklebank said the inpatient beds accounted for ‘very few’ patients, compared to other hospice services, and yet carried the biggest overhead costs. She added:

“Few people truly realise the extent of the Pilgrims Hospices services offering and that the majority of care already provided by them is to people at home through their outreach and Hospice at Home services.”

Another person supporting the changes is Avril Everden, who works as a healthcare assistant in the Hospice at Home team. Ms Everden said she understood the ‘shock’ people were experiencing at the idea of losing the safety net of the Canterbury inpatients ward. But, she said, that would change when the increased numbers of roaming hospice staff became a bigger presence in the community.

‘This is taking away choice’

CRITICISM: Peggy Pryer
CRITICISM: Peggy Pryer

THE charity has faced a wave of criticism from members of the public since the controversial decision to axe 16 beds at the Canterbury hospice. Peggy Pryer, a retired nurse, lost her mother there in 1983 and her husband died there in 2005, from a terminal heart and kidney disease. Still involved with the Royal College of Nursing, Mrs Pryer believes the inpatient ward offers much more than a place to die. She said:

“It’s for people to deal with pain management. There’s a problem. If someone’s living alone, how are they going to receive care at home? People say ‘I want to die at home’, but in the last few days, they might say ‘I want to die in a hospice’. And you’re taking away patient’s choice with this decision. The way that they made this announcement, right after that fund raising week, the charity cycle, raising £10,000. I think it was diabolical. Former Lord Mayor Heather Taylor and Lady Mayoress Linda Taylor have also backed the fight to stop the closure.”

Fire ants in my fingers

Columnist TINA MORRISSEY gives a very personal view on the proposed changes to the Canterbury Pilgrims Hospice.

AS THOSE of you who followed my recently printed progress from initial diagnoses of bowel cancer through to the treatment for a secondary tumour in my liver three years later will know, I am currently having a clear period from the disease. I’m hoping it won’t return but know the odds are slim at best. I am convinced however, that at some point I will fail and in my final weeks or days I will need care. So I looked on the hospice at Canterbury as my salvation at that time. My family, who are wonderful, are all men and while they would do anything for me I do not wish them to have to provide the very personal care that a dying person requires. Nor do I trust them to know what is required if I cannot direct it.

Our home, if we are still living here, hasn’t the room for portable hoists for bathing and moving. I have seen enough family and friends at the end of life to know that in most cases the physical strength goes long before you actually die. Recently I visited a friend in a hospice in Hertfordshire. She had previously been cared for in hospital and then at home and had a bed and commode downstairs etc. The first thing that was done upon admittance was to bath her as they had not only the moving equipment but adapted baths and showers to accomplish this most basic of requirements. The effect on her was enormously beneficial. To quote I feel like a new woman. She felt safe that all her needs were understood without her having to request anything. She could stop worrying about the impact on her family. We could all return to our original relationships as family or friends as the care aspect was now handled by other and she could host visits without worrying about anyone either having to provide their own refreshments or interfering in her kitchen. Do not underestimate the impact of these worries when visiting someone no longer able to offer hospitality.

While on our own we openly discussed the benefits of hospice care over care at home or in a hospital. She experiencing it at the time and me believing I could turn to it one day when needed. At that point my only concern was would I hear the traffic noise as the Canterbury hospice is on a major road intersection. So you can imagine my feelings when the charity announced the decommissioning of the inpatient facilities at Canterbury. Many people wish to remain at home, so by all means expand the domiciliary service but for some, and I am one, the wish to die In a hospice Is also a valid choice. Yes with your family around you but not lumbering them with the final memories of you in the place they also call home, that is also their sanctuary from the distress when you are fading and the grief when you are gone. How much worse to head towards your final breath living alone with an ever changing band of staff to administer to you. You feel differently about that when in a residential situation than in your own space.

So if the closure happens I now do have anxiety. Of course there may not have been a bed when my time arrived but until that happened I was content in my mind that my final days would be free from pain and discomfort and worse still for me stress for my loved ones. Please, please think again Pilgrims Hospice. Adapt by all means but don’t destroy your original ethos for those of us whose last decision and in our minds service to our family is where we die.

Don’t stop with your donations

BUSINESSMAN Dan Burgess, a keen supporter of Pilgrims Hospices explains why he is still behind the charity, despite the announcement..

I UNDERSTAND everyone’s shock at the news of Pilgrims withdrawing inpatient beds from Canterbury. Can I urge them all to please read the full story? Services will still be available on site in 2016. The ward of 16 beds will be withdrawn by then to allow Pilgrims to spread its services wider. The number of patients is increasing year on year and it is becoming harder and harder for Pilgrims to offer everyone the help they need. As some of you may know, we were very grateful to have the Hospice at Home service caring for my mother in her own home. This allowed her to stay in surroundings that were a great comfort to her. This service will reach more people and is a better use of its wonderful skills. Hospice at Home nurses are already giving palliative care to patients in community hospitals, care homes and people’s own homes.

Nobody likes change, it scares us. But the hospice has to adapt to survive. Think about it, unless you are willing to help raise double the money than you do now, or even triple in the very near future, then things cannot continue as they are. Many people are drawing parallels with the closing of NHS services such as A&E. That is not a helpful comparison — Pilgrims is a charity, it works hard to provide the best services it can and pulling your fundraising would only have a detrimental effect on the services. I am really scared that if donations are affected this will have a knock-on effect on Pilgrims’ ability to support our community.

Herne Bay Times, May 21st 2014

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