Looking after terminal people in the BOP
Every year, Waipuna Hospice will care for about 1000 patients in Tauranga and the Western Bay of Plenty.
While many of us think of hospice as a building, the vast majority of people are cared for in their own homes and surrounded by loved ones – an important part of their end-of-life care.
Waipuna Hospice cares for people in any place they call home. To make this possible, additional in-home equipment is often required to improve a patient’s quality of life.
This can be as simple as a reclining Lazy Boy chair to help with pain management, or it can become something quite complex incorporating electric beds, wheelchairs, shower support units, oxygen concentrators, and more.
Andrew Drummond is Waipuna Hospice’s Equipment Officer and is responsible for the delivery, setup, and instruction of essential equipment to patients to enhance their quality of life.
On average, Andrew will make more than 90 visits to patient homes every month.
That’s more than 1000 visits a year from Waihi Beach to Paengaroa, delivering the essential items they need to live the best life possible with the time they have left.
For Andrew, this is a very rewarding role.
“I know it will sound strange to some, but I love my job. I am helping people by bringing them a sense of normality and making them comfortable, so it is very rewarding. I often try and make families laugh while I am in their homes and try bring a smile to their faces.
“One of the most rewarding things for me is being able to remind our patients that they aren’t alone on this journey, and that Waipuna Hospice is here for them.
"I also love being able to see the impact our service has on patients first-hand. I dropped a Lazy Boy recliner off to a patient recently and he got straight into it and I could just see his entire face light up. It was very moving."
One of the patients Andrew has helped is Elizabeth (Beth) Watson.
Beth became a patient of Waipuna Hospice after being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Beth and her family were shocked by the diagnosis, explains Beth’s daughter Jo.
“In June last year mum started getting very unwell, and we’d been trying to get to the bottom of what was going on.
"Unfortunately, after visiting her doctor and doing a few tests, it came back that she had lung cancer. It was a massive shock for our family as she doesn’t smoke, has a very healthy lifestyle, and eats very healthy food. We also have no family history of cancer, so it was a horror story really.”
Shortly after being diagnosed with lung cancer, Beth’s Doctor discovered a brain tumour. After an operation, and over six months of treatment, Beth returned for a follow-up scan and found that the tumour had grown.
Her doctors spoke to the family and explained that there was nothing more they could do. It was then that Beth’s family reached out to Waipuna Hospice for support.
“I actually called within a day or two of receiving the news, even though mum was still quite well. I spoke to a nurse who reassured me and explained that when mum needed help, Waipuna Hospice would be there. It was such a relief to hear. She gave me peace of mind,” explains Jo.
Beth’s condition started to deteriorate quite quickly after that, and at-home support was needed for Beth to remain comfortable in her own home, surrounded by her family.
“Waipuna Hospice has been amazing, and nothing is too much trouble when it comes to mum’s care. Mum was offered a hospital bed for her home, and she was really concerned with how long it would take, thinking it would be weeks. We were all blown away when Waipuna Hospice said it's coming tomorrow, the day after we called.”
“I remember Waipuna Hospice telling us about the bed,” recalls Beth’s son Steve.
“I was worried about how they were going to get the bed into mum’s home, then I realized they would have to dismantle it and assemble it in here, which is a big job.
"But Waipuna Hospice made it happen basically overnight, which was such a relief for our family. That service allowed mum to stay comfortable at home for a bit which was amazing. It has been incredible to know help is there and that it's so immediate.”
Without the continued community support, Waipuna Hospice wouldn’t be able to support patients like Beth and provide crucial at-home quality of life equipment when it's needed.
Waipuna Hospice provide their care at no charge for patients, their families, and whānau, but it costs a lot to provide. While some of their services are contracted by the District Health Board, there is an annual shortfall which this year equates to $4.25 million. That’s almost $82,000 per week.
TECT is an ongoing supporter of Waipuna Hospice, and recent TECT grants equate to about 4% of the funds Waipuna Hospice needs to raise to meet their shortfall in operating costs.
Since 1998, TECT has supported Waipuna Hospice with over $3.7 million in funding towards operating costs, equipment, salary costs, upgrades to existing Waipuna Hospice facilities and the building of the Day Services Wing and Loan Equipment Storage Warehouse.
As Waipuna Hospice CEO Richard Thurlow explains, this support allows Waipuna Hospice to provide immediate care and support to patients and their whānau – with no delays.
“Providing care for people at the end of their life is time-critical. Our patients and families cannot afford delays to care and providing the right care to the right person, in the right place at the right time is an essential standard that Waipuna Hospice endeavours to work by. This is also true of our equipment delivery service.
“We are so grateful for TECT’s support over the years – it has gone a long way in enabling us to not only provide the equipment necessary to ensure we can deliver the best possible care to those affected by life-limiting illnesses, but also the many other services we provide.
“Their funding has also allowed us to expand our services to meet increasing referral numbers with the significant facilities upgrades. We are incredibly lucky to have TECT in our region and wouldn’t be able to do what we do without their support.”