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Hospice Huronia getting ready to open doors of $4-M Tomkins House

Five-bed residential hospice will welcome first resident in April; 'The future is here, ... and the changes are going to be quite impactful,' official says
2020-02-19-Hospice-Huronia
Debbie Kesheshian, executive director of Hospice Huronia, provided an update to elected officials Wednesday night about the residential facility nearing its opening date. Mehreen Shahid/MidlandToday

Debbie Kesheshian has a deep respect for the value a residential hospice provides for a comfortable end-of-life experience. 

It's not because she is the executive director of Hospice Huronia, but it's because 20 years ago, her father needed the facilities of a residential hospice.

"I didn't even know what the word (hospice) meant," she said. "We ended up in emerg, and I had three little boys at the time, and didn't know what was happening. it was a scary time." 

Once her father was moved to a residential hospice, the environment became more home-like, said Kesheshian. 

On Wednesday night she gave council an update on the ongoing construction of Tomkins House at 948 Fuller Ave. 

"The future is here," said Kesheshian. "It's coming soon. And the changes are going to be quite impactful."

She invited council and members of the community to attend the open house being held during the last week of March to take the opportunity to walk through the house before the first of five beds is filled in April. 

"On April 6, we are going to accept our first resident at Tomkins House," said Kesheshian. "We're offering five private rooms, individual beds with Murphy beds. Families can come and stay close, but they can also go home if they need to. If they need a little bit of respite care, they can go home, knowing that our clinical team will be there 24/7 looking after their loved ones." 

The focus of the team will be on each individual's personal care needs, she noted. 

"We talk about pain and symptom relief as key components at hospice. And allow people to live with comfort and dignity right up to the end," said Kesheshian. "Families can go back to being families again and allow our caregivers to take over the medication and making sure they have what they need to manage their pain and symptoms."

Families can go into our kitchen and enjoy a hot bowl of homemade soup as our wonderful loving volunteers are sitting there with a compassionate ear around that table, she added.

The service is free for residents and families; it's funded 50% by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, Kesheshian said, adding this means the remainder comes from community donations. 

"The impact on healthcare is actually quite great," said Kesheshian. "If you think about a hospital bed, with four people in a room, is roughly about $1,000 per day, (with) an ER or ICU bed, it quickly rises to $5,000 to $10,000 per day." 

And that’s where you see the backlog in the emergency department and at the hospital, from those who are waiting, trying to get into a hospice bed, she said. 

"If we can get people from emerg to a hospice bed, it's roughly $460 a day," Kesheshian said, noting it's less than half the cost of a hospital bed. "That's not to mention the incredible love and compassion that happens there, which is simply priceless." 

She said Hospice Huronia has been providing end-of-life support for over 20 years in the area through visiting volunteer programs, and also through their grief and bereavement program. 

"The residence is now going to complete that circle by having people have the option of not being in a hospital bed or struggling at home," said Kesheshian.

Council members appreciated the update on the residential hospice. 

"I fully understand that when someone is at the end of life, being in the ICU is a detriment not only to them but to their family," said Coun. Carole McGinn. "So hospice house is a long time coming. At $462 roughly per day, it’s in line with the step-up step-down bed at the hospital, but it relies on the community, which hopefully, in the long run it will be valued in that the community doesn't have to come up with the additional 50%. 

"It’s needed and we have to keep talking about this, because as our population ages, your need is going to be greater," she added. "As a caring community, we have to keep that in focus that the need is going to be much greater. The ministry of health needs to get on this."

Coun. Bill Gordon wanted to know if the number of beds was sufficient

"If money wasn’t an issue, and if you had a big bag of cash rain down, are six beds enough?" he said.

Kesheshian said that number was in keeping with provincial trends.

"In Ontario, they don’t want to go beyond 10 beds because they don’t want to lose the home-like environment," she said. "Then you become more of a hospital-like facility. Ours is a $4 million build because we have to be medical facility, so it's not just a typical house." 

Kesheshian added that with more beds, she could see the hospice serving famlies in different ways. 

"There are other things we can do with the beds, families wanting to go to a wedding out of town and they can’t leave their loved one at home," she said. "Or they want a weekend of respite. There are lots of options we can talk about... I’m pretty happy with the five beds right now and we’ve built with growth in mind, so it’s a perfect opportunity for us to build with that in mind."

Coun. Jonathan Main wanted to know of other ways the community can help.

Kesheshian said community members could inquire about legacy donations, as well as participate in upcoming community fundraising events, such as the bonspiel Feb. 29, Hike for Hospice on May 31, and the garden tour is coming up in July. 

For more information, visit their website.


Mehreen Shahid

About the Author: Mehreen Shahid

Mehreen Shahid covers civic matters under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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