Providence Healthcare Foundation board member Andrew Branion symbolically inaugurates the renovation to Providence Healthcare’s palliative care wing April 2. Photo by Michael Swan

Providence reimagines palliative care

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  • April 3, 2015

TORONTO - If death is a part of life then we shouldn’t die alone any more than we should live in isolation. Our deaths should not be coldly institutionalized any more so than our lives. Our deaths should be as surrounded by family, love and compassion as the lives we lived.

Easier said than done, as the saying goes. But that’s not going to stop Providence Healthcare from trying.

The Scarborough rehabilitation hospital and long-term care home has taken a close look at its 35 palliative care beds and decided it wants to do better.

The hospital is dedicating $4.5 million out of a $16-million private fundraising initiative to rebuilding its palliative wing with a focus on families, compassion and individualized care for every patient.

In addition to the beds themselves, the new palliative wing will include a lounge for families, a children’s play area, a business centre to allow family members to keep up with work without abandoning their dying relatives. There will also be a multifaith meditation space, in addition to the existing Catholic chapel at Providence.

The rooms themselves will feature visitor chairs that can fold out into beds when necessary. The oxygen feeds, suction machinery and other medical paraphernalia will be mostly hidden in wooden cabinets.

Providence symbolically inaugurated its renovation, which has in fact been going on since February, at a ceremony for donors, staff and the media April 2. Rather than a symbolic shovel in the ground, Providence Healthcare Foundation board member Andrew Branion put a sledgehammer through a sheet of ceremonial drywall.

“We want something that lives the values of Providence Healthcare,” said James Fox, vice president of programs at Providence on a walk-through of the area slated for renovation.

Those values would be the ones lived by the Sisters of St. Joseph 160 years ago when Providence began as a kind of soup kitchen, hostel and clinic for the destitute of a growing, chaotic young city.

“Care of the dying was part of it from the beginning,” explained Providence director of mission and values Sr. Mary Anne McCarthy.

But for the last 40 years Providence’s palliative beds have been standard hospital beds on a ward built in the 1960s, now crammed with more and newer equipment. The new palliative wing will have room for families and the comforts of home, and a much less institutional feel, said Fox.

The Hope Starts Here fundraising campaign has already released $1.5 million to get the construction started. The redeveloped wing will be open in 2016.

“Palliative care in particular requires a deeply compassionate spirit,” said Providence president and CEO Josie Walsh. “We’re going to revitalize the way we deliver palliative care.

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