For the past 30 years, Quesnel has been moving steadily forward on its comprehensive palliative care service, thanks to an amazingly dedicated group of supporters, volunteers and medical professionals.
Quesnel now boasts a beautiful, dedicated hospice facility which provides patients facing a life-threatening disease with appropriate care in homely, well-appointed rooms and common areas services by professional, trained palliative care staff and volunteers. This facility at Dunrovin Park Lodge is the location of a celebration June 24 and the public is encouraged to drop by for the festivities.
However, it wasn’t always the case. In Canada 1976, the first reference to palliative care was coined by a Quebec doctor who drew from the word palliate which means to ease the symptoms when
the disease is actively taking the patient towards death.
“Before the palliative movement a patient’s death wasn’t addressed,” long-time palliative care advocate Carol Weremy said.
“Doctors and medical staff never discussed the patient’s inevitable death.”
Quesnel began investigating and addressing the palliative issue in 1985. Laurie Lawlor/McRae and Dr. Barber discussed concerns about patients with life-limiting illnesses and the need to control pain and symptoms. They approached the director of nursing at G.R. Baker Memorial Hospital as one component of a comprehensive palliative care service for Quesnel.
Enter nurse Carol Weremy who was approached to lead the palliative care medical component.
“I have no professional knowledge of palliative care but I realized palliative patients needed better services [than could be provided in acute care wards],” she said.
“It was a steep learning curve, I became a voracious reader on the subject and took university courses. I learned the first order of business in the hospital setting was pain and symptom management.”
At the same time Weremy was busy, with many other committed palliative care proponents, establishing an association to draw volunteers, train them and coordinate their befriending service as well as providing insurance to cover their activities.
In 1988, Quesnel and District Hospice and Palliative Care Association was formed and Weremy was the first president. The association also included 12 board members with representation from all aspects of palliative needs.
They actively recruited patient-care volunteers and a volunteer coordinator.
One bed was reserved in the hospital for palliative care patients as long as it wasn’t required for a medical patient.
“The first official palliative care patient in the one designated bed was Maime Armstrong,” Weremy said.
“She spoke of how important it was to talk about the fact she was dying, a discussion many doctors and other medical professionals were reluctant to have.”
Weremy went on to say it was and remains the association’s purpose to provide additional services (those not provided by the health care system) to help palliative patients achieve a healthy death where pain and symptom management along with cultural, spiritual and personal peace are addressed because everyone eventually dies.
Twenty-one years ago, the QDHPCA embarked on an ambitious project to establish a hospice unit in Quesnel and after 15 years of dedicated fundraising and agreements with health authorities the hospice unit at Dunrovin was opened in 2009 with three hospice beds and three respite beds.
“On this 30th anniversary of QDHPCA we realize how far we’ve come,” Weremy said.
However, she isn’t blinded to the work that’s still needed.
The ongoing goals include:
• Lobbying for the elimination of the $31/day charge for hospice unit stays;
• the need to expand volunteer services to everywhere patients are palliative;
• continue to educate health care professionals and the public on palliative care;
• fundraise to supply hospice services.
“We celebrate all the community has achieved with respect to hospice/palliative care in Quesnel and area,” Weremy said.
“We understand more needs to be done and the association and its supporters look forward to the challenge over the next 30 years.
“This community has been amazingly generous in its contributions to advancing hospice/palliative care services in Quesnel.”
The community is invited to help QDHPCA celebrate 30 years of palliative care and six years with the dedicated hospice unit June 24 on the hospice deck at Dunrovin’s hospice unit, 1:30 – 3:30 p.m. Refreshments will be served.