The ribbon cutting ceremony as Providence Healthcare opens a new palliative care wing, Oct. 12. Photo by Michael Swan

Providence opens new palliative care wing

By 
  • October 13, 2016

Providence Healthcare’s new $4.5 million palliative care wing features no state-of-the-art technology, no breakthrough innovations, no dazzling science. The money went into providing peace, quiet and the human touches that make life worth living.

The new 35-bed facility was unveiled Oct. 12 at a small reception for donors, Providence staff and volunteers.

Though the remodelled wing adds no new palliative beds, its improvements in quality of experience for patients and their families makes a strong statement about the sacredness of life in the context of Canada’s 5-month-old law legalizing assisted suicide, said Cardinal Thomas Collins.

The Archdiocese of Toronto contributed $1 million to Providence Healthcare’s Hope Starts Here campaign because it wanted to see the new palliative wing built.

“Providence here is the answer,” said Collins. “This is Jacob’s ladder – one end in heaven and one end here on earth… a shining, beautiful sign of God’s providence among us.”

All of the money for the new unit was raised privately. Providence has so far raised $11.5 million in a $16 million campaign to renovate the Scarborough rehabilitation hospital. The palliative care wing is the first of three campaign priorities to be completed. When complete, the Hope Starts Here campaign will also redesign patient flow throughout the hospital and add a new training facility and resource centre.

Patients will move from the old palliative wing into the new facility Oct. 24 in a two-hour, co-ordinated operation. The palliative ward has capacity for 35 patients, but in extraordinary circumstances it can be expanded to 37. On average, the wing carries 33 patients.

The redesigned and updated ward adds family friendly features including a family room and children’s play area, laundry facilities and a business centre with internet connection and printer. Families will be better able to spend extended periods of time together with dying loved ones when they don’t face the pressures of childcare, missing work or even just ordinary household chores calling them away from the hospital, said Providence officials.

For the medical director of palliative care at Providence, the home-like atmosphere on the new ward is a major accomplishment.

“I’ve always said the best place to do palliative care would be your own home. This is a close second,” said Dr. Richard Brodie. “We’re treating families here. In the past we forgot about the families.”

The calm and quiet on the new ward will mean a whole different experience of dying, said volunteer music therapy practitioner Sr. Gail Fox, who recently retired from a career as hospital chaplain at East General, now known as the Michael Garron Hospital, in East York.

“There’s a different atmosphere on this unit,” Fox said. “When something is fresh like this it brings hope with it. And hope is important when you’re dying.”

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