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Construction begins on Squamish Hospice

Funds still needed to complete facility

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It is actually happening. A dedicated hospice will soon open in Squamish.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held for the newly-renamed Whistler Blackcomb Foundation Sea to Sky Community Hospice on Wednesday afternoon.

Construction actually began Nov. 5 on the $2.6-million four-bed hospice being built between Hilltop House and Squamish General Hospital.

Currently, no palliative care beds are available in the Sea to Sky Corridor for residents of Squamish, Whistler, Mount Currie or Pemberton.

The facility will include living, dining and kitchen areas for family members, laundry and showers for families, a quiet room, sacred space, and access to gardens.

"It is a home-like environment to support people at the end of life," said Dr. Kristen Siemens, who is one of the Palliative Care Doctors in the Sea to Sky Corridor. "What it will mean is having people stay in their communities for the last time of their life."

A key aspect of having a hospice as opposed to a hospital setting is that family and caregivers are cared for and considered as well. The facility will, "Release them of other duties so they can focus on loving their loved ones."

The hospice, first envisioned for the corridor in 2006, is a result of a partnership between the volunteer-run Squamish Hospice Society and Vancouver Coastal Health on the traditional territories of the Squamish and Southern Stl’atl’imx First Nations.

"I would like to put a special blessing on all the people who are here now and the ones who have worked so hard to get this hospice set up so that we can have a proper entrance into our next lives," said Squamish Nation elder, Humteya (Shirley Toman).

The Squamish Hospice Society palliative care team lead, Dr. Judith Fothergill, who is also a long-time advocate for the Squamish hospice, said the support for the project has been amazing.

The Ministry of Health, for example, gave a grant of $400,00.

The Whistler Blackcomb (WB) Foundation gave a $300,000 donation, and thus its name will grace the building. Many others contributed too.

However, the work isn't over. The hospice society needs to raise another $220,000 to complete the project.

A new fundraising campaign will kick off next week. (To donate anytime go to www.seatoskycommunityhospice.ca/give/)

The goal is to open the facility to its first patients in June.

Fast facts:

Seventy per cent of deaths happen in a hospital, even though most people — 80 per cent — say they want to die at home, according to the Squamish Hospice Society. It costs the medical system $1,000 to $1,200 per day to treat a dying person in an acute care hospital while it costs $450 per day for hospice care, the society says.

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