Howick Hospice retrenches as funding runs out

2009-02-01 00:00

Howick Hospice is appealing for urgent help as its funds run dry and the services it offers are compromised.

The hospice has had to retrench staff, reduce staff hours and freeze contracts with community care-givers as a result of the funding crisis.

Louise Stobart, the general manager of Howick Hospice, said the hospice has been been serving the community in the greater Lions River district for 21 years and has over 300 cancer and HIV patients in its care.

“The hospice has faced increasing demands for its services over the years and has always been financially stretched,” she added.

She said that in December a major international funding agreement came to an end, leaving the hospice with a significant shortfall.

“The present financial crisis poses a major threat to our ability to offer care to those facing life-threatening illness and further support to families after death.

“Hospice care enables families to keep loved ones at home without pain and other distressing symptoms, and it allows for people to die with dignity,” said Stobart, “but unless we get major cash injection soon, we will no longer be able to help members of the community in this way.”

She said the hospice has flourished on the support of the community, with volunteers forming the backbone of its programmes. She appealed to the community and businesses in particular to come forward with support to enable the services to continue.

“For the past five years, most income has come from overseas funders, but for a number of reasons this has drastically declined in recent months and we are going to have to find more support locally in future,” said Tony Hunt, the organisation’s treasurer.

“We are appealing to everyone to assist as life-threatening illness is something most of us are not equipped to deal with, and when, unexpectedly, it enters one’s own family, receiving support is such a relief.”

Dr Dave Peiser, a local GP who has been closely involved in the organisation over the years, expressed grave concern at the threat to the services. “As a GP I have found the assistance of Howick Hospice has been invaluable in caring for terminally ill patients and it would be a tragic loss to doctors and to the community if the hospice were unable to continue this important service,” he said.

Howick Hospice offers a range of services to the community beyond its home care programme, including a clinic, a support group for children and bereavement care.

The organisation also plays an important role in networking and training community groups, including clinic staff, professionals, community members and home-based care-givers.

“We are cutting back on every aspect possible to avoid the reduction of further services as well as launching an aggressive income generation strategy, which includes fundraising events, proposals, sponsorships and increasing the turnover in the hospice shop,” said Stobart.

Anyone who can help should call Stobart at 033 330 5257.

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