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Dublin: 11 °C Tuesday 23 April, 2019
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WATCH: Take a tour of Dublin's newest hospice, which 'feels more like a hotel'

“This may be the last room someone will live in.”

entrance The new facility was officially opened on Friday Source: Andrew Roberts/TheJournal.ie

A NEW PALLIATIVE care unit has been opened by Our Lady’s Hospice & Care Services, Ireland’s largest hospice, in Dublin.

The facility is different to many others, however. The brief was to create a hospice that “felt more like a hotel than a hospital, bearing in mind that this may be the last room someone will live in”.

The hospice, which has 36 single en suite bedrooms and is located in Harold’s Cross, cost €14.6 million – coming just in under the estimated budget of €15 million.

It’s the single largest capital investment project in the almost 140-year history of Our Lady’s Hospice & Care Services (OLH & CS).

About €13.6 million of the investment came from public donations, while almost €1 million was from the HSE. The new facility was officially launched by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Health Minister Simon Harris yesterday.

courtyard The courtyard Source: Andrew Roberts/TheJournal.ie

Speaking to TheJournal.ie about the new building, Eleanor Flew, OLH’s Director of Fundraising and Communications, said: “Why did we build and why did we build now? We know that the over-65s are going to triple in the next 30 years so demand is going to keep rising.”

There has been a 25% reduction in the funding OLH & CS has received from the HSE since 2009. During the same period, patient intake has been higher than ever. In the specific area of palliative care, there has been an 11% increase in admissions since 2012.

Challenges 

Flew said the older design of wards with four beds per room presented a number of challenges.

“That wasn’t suitable for privacy and dignity at the end of life, but also from an efficiency point of view it was creating challenges for us.”

For example, if three men were in one room, a woman could not be admitted to the same room. Infection control also meant that some beds could not be used at all times, despite the high demand.

Flew said the people involved in designing the new hospice were “very, very cognisant, particularly in our palliative care service, that this ultimately is somebody’s’ final home and we want it to be warm, we want it to be welcoming, we want it to be family-friendly”.

tommy Tommy Beatty, Head of Non-Clinical Services and Capital Projects Source: Andrew Roberts/TheJournal.ie

Tommy Beatty, Head of Non-Clinical Services and Capital Projects, has worked at OLH since 1986 and has been involved in the planning of the new building since day one.

Research on the new unit began in 2011 and included consultation with staff, volunteers, patients and their families.

‘Like a top-quality hotel’

Speaking ahead of the launch, Tommy said the goal was to make the hospice “like a top-quality hotel” and to make it as comfortable as possible as “it’s a patient’s last resting place, it’s the last thing they’re going to remember”.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

TheJournal.ie received a tour of the new building during the week. Tommy guided us through the unit, pointing out subtle but important features that are the result of patient and staff feedback.

Every bedroom has its own patio which leads out to a shared courtyard area. The door leading out to the patio is wide enough so the patient’s bed can be wheeled outside if they’re unable to walk.

There are single pull-out sofa beds in each room to accommodate a family member staying overnight. There’s also more seating than in an average hospital room so several family members or friends will be able to visit at once.

bedroom One of the bedrooms Source: Andrew Roberts/TheJournal.ie

Each room has a fridge and safe, as well as underfloor heating, remote-controlled bed and blinds, and a smart TV so patients can watch video content brought in by their families – be it a family wedding they couldn’t attend or a rugby match.

Every en suite is wide enough to accommodate the bed being wheeled in if needed, and has two smaller mirrors which can be moved (at standing and sitting height) rather than one larger mirror.

The latter idea came about after some patients noted that they don’t like looking at themselves while they are unwell, but often have no option when in a standard hospital or hospice toilet.

noreen Noreen Holland, Director of Nursing Source: Andrew Roberts/TheJournal.ie

Noreen Holland, Director of Nursing, said it was “crucial” that frontline staff were involved in every stage of the design process.

“Management don’t know the basic needs on the ground and what’s important and what’s not important. A number of our staff have worked in the hospice for many years and have worked in out older unit, and there were some issues with the older plan.

“Previously the toilet was right inside the (bedroom) door, so if you had somebody who needed the assistance of two nurses, one was jammed against the wall,” Noreen noted as an example.

[image alt="jac new" src="http://cdn.thejournal.ie/media/2018/04/jac-new-296x190.jpg" width="296" height="190" credit-source="Andrew%20Roberts%2FTheJournal.ie" caption="The%20whirlpool%20bath%2C%20where%20patients%20can%20relax%20" class="aligncenter" /end]

As well as the medical care they receive, patients also have the opportunity to participate in facilitated therapeutic sessions and use facilities such as a whirlpool bath and reflection room.

‘A different perception’

Patient Mary Moran, who has been at the facility for about three weeks, said there is “no comparison” between the new hospice and other hospitals.

“It’s unbelievable. They’ve managed that very well (making it more like a hotel), it’s certainly not like a hospital. Your visitors have a different perception of what it’s like to be in a facility like this. It’s absolutely super.”

Mary said she particularly likes the garden area, describing it as “wonderful”.

“You have space and you have fresh air and you have everything that’s good for you.”

mary Mary Moran Source: Andrew Roberts/TheJournal.ie

Audrey Houlihan, OLH & CS’s Chief Executive Officer, said the new building has “come to fruition after seven years of hard work”.

“We designed and developed what we thought would be the best possible environment for our patients and relatives, and only achieved through a very, very ambitious vision and also the support of the public.

“Every brick that came into the build was supported by the generosity of the public.

Every family have either had a relative or friend who has been exposed to the need for palliative care.

pod An outdoor pod where patients and visitors can sit Source: Andrew Roberts/TheJournal.ie

OLH & CS, which was established in 1879, is a 200-bed facility that provides specialist care for people with a wide range of needs, including rehabilitation and end-of-life care.

More than 600 employees and 330 volunteers work with residents, patients and their families – both on-site at hospices in Harold’s Cross and Blackrock, as well as in people’s own homes across south Dublin.

In 2017, specialist care to over 4,290 patients and residents was provided across various services – reflecting an 8.8% increase in patient numbers from 2016. Over 10,700 homecare visits were made by members of the specialist palliative care team last year.

Speaking about his three decades working with the hospice, Tommy said: “I’d say I’m one of the few people who can say they love coming to work. I definitely only once in a very blue moon would say, ‘I’ve had a bad day in work.’

“It’s very tough but I suppose, like every job, it’s an environment you get used to. You have to praise the carers and the nurses – what they do is fabulous work, hospice care is brilliant.”

More information about the services provided by OLH & CS can be read here.

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Órla Ryan

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