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Huron Hospice seeks to add additional beds through renovations

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BLUEWATER – As Huron Hospice looks to add additional beds to its residence near Clinton and make other improvements, Bluewater councillors will discuss ways of aiding their efforts during budget deliberations later this year.

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Coun. John Becker made a motion during the July 12 regular council meeting which passed unanimously to discuss Huron Hospice during budget discussions after a presentation from Huron Hospice executive director Willy Van Klooster and board chair Jay McFarlan.

According to Van Klooster, the planned renovations will allow the hospice to operate as a six-bed residence and will include patios for each bedroom, a covered entrance at the front, an improved nurse’s communication room, an administration area on the second floor, pathways connecting the suites, and additional parking.

Van Klooster said Huron Hospice was always intended to operate with six beds, but Ministry of Health timelines were tight as the residence was prepared to open and the decision was made to open with four beds instead in two converted sitting rooms, leading to the hospice quickly reaching capacity and having a waitlist. The second proposed phase of renovations will see four bedroom suites added to the building, allowing the sitting rooms to be used as a children’s activity room and a reflection room.

With a capital campaign total being set at $2.7 million, Van Klooster said the capital cost per bed would be $450,000.

“If we reach our full goal of $2.7 million to cover all of the phase one costs, plus the phase two work, and set aside some money in a reserve fund, the capital cost per bed is considerably less than other hospices in our region.”

In addition to overviewing future renovations, Van Klooster also highlighted hospice operations through COVID-19, and how the services provided by Huron Hospice had to be adapted to serve individuals grieving through the pandemic.

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“Although there’s always been a big need to support people dealing with any type of significant loss or grief, the numbers have gone way up during COVID,” said Van Klooster. “Many people have more complicated grief because they often could not even be with their loved ones if they died in a hospital, for example, during one of the waves, and almost no one could have a normal visitation or funeral service with friends and family gathered for support.

“Grieving has been a lonely business since last March.”

In response to the loneliness grieving people have been feeling, Van Klooster said Huron Hospice has been offering grief support groups online through Zoom.

“The demand has been very significant, and the participants have shared with us that their virtual personal support groups have provided some measure of help, even if they couldn’t meet in person.”

Van Klooster said that though they’re confident the provincial government will increase the amount of funding to hospices for operations, most hospices currently need to raise about 50 per cent of their

annual operating costs through donations. He also highlighted groups such as the Bayfield Community Group, which has raised over $85,000 to support Huron Hospice.

“The good news is that once we get to six beds, the two nurses can support six residents as easily as four, so expenses do not increase, but revenues do,” said Van Klooster. “This will mean a reduction of over $200,000 per year in what we need to raise in donations.”

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According to Van Klooster’s presentation, most Huron Hospice residents come from Huron County, including 38 per cent from Goderich, 15 per cent from Central Huron, 12 per cent from Bluewater and 10 per cent from Huron East. Other areas residents have come from North Huron, South Huron, Morris-Turnberry and Perth County.

“We are all going to die,” said Van Klooster. “What we want for ourselves and for everyone who matters to us is that the last weeks and days, and the death itself, will at least not be unpleasant. Hospices are expert at this, and do everything possible to relieve pain, make those last days meaningful, surrounded by people who care. People don’t come to hospices to die. They come to live.”

After the presentation, Mayor Paul Klopp spoke in favour of supporting Huron Hospice.

“I think it’s important that we support any way we can,” said Klopp. “I encourage all of us to, when they ask to donate, that we do our part.”

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