St. Joseph’s Health Care London unveils new palliative care unit at Parkwood

An example of a palliative care unit at a London Ont. hospital. Natalie Lovie / 980 CFPL

St. Joseph’s Health Care London has officially unveiled the newly renovated Palliative Care Unit at Parkwood Institute.

Officials held a ceremonial ribbon cutting Thursday morning at the unit which will house 18 patient beds to start, with the capacity to add more as single rooms can be converted to doubles.

“We started the process looking at what were the needs for palliative care in the city and the decision was that we would add some additional beds here at Parkwood and so we wanted to build a new unit to really look at care for today and into the future,” said Dr. Gillian Kernaghan, president and CEO of St. Joseph’s Health Care London.

“We started working with our partners in the city and we started working with our donors who very generously have provided the funding to really make the unit what it is today. We started that journey with our first submission for approval to move forward in 2015, so we’re so excited to see it open today.”

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The unit, where construction began in March, cost $3.1 million. Officials said St. Joseph’s Health Care used $2 million of its own capital, with the remaining $1.1 million coming from the St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation.

“We have a strong commitment to patient partnership within the organization, and we wanted to make sure that the unit that we were building was really what our patients and their families [envisioned], because at the end of life, family is very important to be able to be present and be part of the experience of helping people in that process of dying with whatever is their condition,” Dr. Kernaghan said.

Rooms include a pull-out sofa on wheels, which allows families to stay with patients longer and more comfortably, dim-able lighting, calming skylights, and windows overlooking the greenery surrounding Parkwood.

Patients will be moved in on Dec. 12. Besides patient rooms, the unit also includes family and media rooms, and a therapeutic bathing room.

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The family room is named in honour of Barbara Del Net’s late husband Doug, who was a long time donor to St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation.

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“This is where if you have a family member that is passing away at the end of life and their families come and visit, grandkids, whatever, they can come into this room, they can make a coffee, they can have something to eat. There’s a microwave, they can watch TV, they can read, there’s a beautiful fireplace here, and they have a little facility set up for the little kids,” she said.

Doug passed away in Parkwood following a lengthy illness on Dec. 3, 2017, at 86 years old.

“I just think it’s wonderful. It’s not sterile like a hospital, it’s a homey atmosphere. He had a wonderful room, not quite as beautiful as these rooms, but nevertheless it was a great room and the care was second to none, not only to him, but they cared about us as well as a family,” she said.

Patients can access palliative care through a referral from their family doctor or a community care provider. Officials said the average length of stay for a patient in a palliative care room at Parkwood is 30 days.

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