The new palliative care unit at St. Martha’s Regional Hospital officially opened on June 8. In attendance were (from the left): Nova Scotia Health Authority President and CEO Janet Knox; Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey; Antigonish Town and County Palliative Care Society Chair Marie Nickerson; St. Martha’s Regional Hospital Foundation Chair Joe MacDonald; St Martha’s Regional Hospital Auxiliary President Nancy MacEachern; Patient Care Manager Carla Bond; and St. Martha’s Regional Hospital Site Lead Martha Cooper.

ANTIGONISH: A new palliative care unit at St Martha’s Regional Hospital in Antigonish was officially opened last Friday.

The renovation, which began in January, 2018, created a six-bed palliative care unit.

“I think having an in-patient unit affords us the opportunity to have a team of folks with concentrated expertise in palliative care come together and provide evidence-informed, top-notch care,” said Martha Cooper, Site Lead at St Martha’s Regional Hospital. “This unit gives us a nice quiet, serene, peaceful environment where families can just really engage with one another and support their loved one as he or she is experiencing an end-of-life journey, or perhaps having an admission for acute pain and symptom management.”

The St. Martha’s Regional Hospital Foundation contributed $600,000 for capital costs, while the St. Martha’s Regional Hospital Auxiliary donated $150,000 in furnishings and equipment.

In addition to medical equipment and necessary staff space requirements, the new unit includes areas for families and volunteers. Amenities such as shower and laundry facilities allow families and friends to remain on the unit, close to their loved ones in care.

“… We have very, very luxurious space for most of our rooms,” Cooper explained. “Four out of our six rooms used to be double rooms but now they’re single rooms, so we have magnificent space within each room so that the patient can be in a very, very comfortable environment where their family can lay down and have a rest with them because there’s a pull-out bed, or they can sit at a table and chair and have a meal with everybody together in the room, or they can just simply look out the window and enjoy the absolutely glorified, beautiful views of Antigonish that this hospital has that I think is unique to this hospital. There’s no window that you look out that doesn’t have a beautiful view.”

The patient rooms are equipped with new televisions, family space and pull-out couches for overnight stays. The new unit also has a full kitchen, computer room and quiet spaces throughout and reflects a person-centred and homelike environment.

“We also have a family room where if the family needs to go off and be by themselves, or have some quite time, we have a separate little quite room,” Cooper noted. “We have space for our volunteers, there’s full kitchen amenities, a wash/dryer, shower, so families can do everything they need to do while they’re here, they don’t need to go home.”

Cooper said they consulted palliative care leadership teams at units across the province, incorporating their ideas into the plan for St. Martha’s. This consultation process also included the community, staff and physicians.

The public can take a tour of the new palliative care unit at: Cooper was “astounded” to learn there’s been over 14,000 views of the tour since it was posted last week.

“It does give you a little sense, but I think when you actually see the unit you certainly can appreciate its warmth and it’s there’s so much space available and at the same time, it’s cozy and the way that we’ve decorated is very appealing, so it’s lovely,” Cooper added.