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Funded end-of-life care beds in Comox 'a start'
Comox Valley Hospice Society executive director Terri Odeneal is eager to see the Valley's first end-of-life care beds up and running by the end of next year.
Island Health, (formerly Vancouver Island Health Authority), announced late last week it will provide operational funding for four dedicated end-of-life care beds in the Comox Valley. The CVHS has been actively advocating for residential hospice beds for the past eight years, according to Odeneal.
"We're absolutely thrilled," Odeneal says of the announcement, adding 80 to 100 Comox Valley residents per year will be able to receive end-of-life care in those four beds.
"Certainly some people want to die at home and that can be a very positive experience when one has the appropriate supports, but for some people those supports aren't in place or they simply don't want to die at home for whatever the reason," continues Odeneal, noting the person can be frightened to die at home, or the workload on their caregiver can sometimes be too much.
"So, I think those people who need the care, and their families, will be very relieved that people can die with dignity in the setting of their choice."
Currently, many people die in acute-care beds at the hospital, says Odeneal, pointing out end-of-life care beds cost much less to staff than acute-care beds, (roughly $300 per day versus $1,000 per day).
"It's the right care in the right place," continues Odeneal. "It's not intensive care; it's really providing comfort and dignity and compassion. People, when they're dying, most times don't need the acute level of care that an acute hospital offers."
The four end-of-life care beds will be at The Views, a residential care facility operated by St. Joseph's General Hospital in Comox. The end-of-life care beds will replace four existing complex-care beds, but those complex-care beds will be moved to an as-yet-undetermined care facility in the Valley, meaning they will stay in the community.
The end-of-life care beds will be operated in collaboration between St. Joseph's and the CVHS, and Odeneal says they will start the planning process in January with IH.
The beds are expected to be operational by the end of 2014, but first the space at The Views must be remodelled.
"In The Views, the area that's being anticipated, they're ward rooms, so they will be turned into private rooms with private baths and we'll need some facilities for families and so forth," explains Odeneal, noting she sees IH's commitment of funding for these four beds as a promising start to what she feels the Valley needs in terms of end-of-life care services.
"I would suggest that four beds — and certainly Island Health has said this, too — that this is the interim step. Four beds is not going to be adequate for our community for any period of time at all — it is a start."
According to a news release from IH, the four beds are part of IH's end-of-life plan and it will continue to enhance end-of-life programs and services as "resources and competing priorities allow."
IH also announced three end-of-life care beds for Campbell River.
Meanwhile, IH's announcement of funding for the four Comox Valley beds came just in time for the CVHS 30th anniversary gala. The annual fundraising event saw about $55,000 raised for the society, which provides a variety of free end-of-life care services to Comox Valley residents.
For more information, visit http://comoxhospice.com/index.html.