What is Hospice Halifax?

Hospice Halifax is also known as the Hospice Society of Greater Halifax, a society that has provided volunteer training, hospice support, and bereavement support to families facing end of life in Halifax Regional Municipality for the past 17 years. In our work toward developing Halifax’s first hospice residence, we collaborated with Nova Scotia Health Authority and the Department of Health and Wellness to support the provincial palliative care strategy, Integrative Palliative Care: Planning for Action in Nova Scotia, and to ensure shared operational funding for Hospice Halifax.

Why is hospice care necessary in Nova Scotia?

Of the Canadians that have a preference as to where to spend their end of life, the majority would prefer to die in their home (75%). Currently the majority of Nova Scotians experience death in a hospital setting because circumstances can emerge in the last few weeks of life leaving the patient and their caregivers with no alternative. Hospice is a viable alternative for many of these patients. Hospice offers support to dying people and their caregivers and families, making acute care hospitalizations often unnecessary. It allows families to share time with each other without managing the stress that can accompany end-of-life care.

What’s the impact on the Nova Scotia healthcare system?

A hospital admission at end of life, costing $1,000 to $1,200 per day for an acute care hospital bed, represents a significant provincial healthcare expense. Hospice residences provide specialty palliative care for people at end of life, freeing hospital beds for patients who are likely to recover from illness. From a provincial healthcare perspective, hospice residences offer a cost-effective way, at about $500 per day, to meet end-of-life care needs.

Why are you developing hospice in a neighbourhood community rather than on hospital grounds?

Hospices are designed to feel like home. Across Canada, the majority of hospice residences are part of the community and established in neighbourhoods. For Hospice Halifax, establishing a hospice residence in a quiet neighbourhood that overlooks the Northwest Arm and is close to healthcare facilities and universities, positions patients and family members to receive the best hospice experience possible.

What is Hospice Halifax’s connection to the Atlantic School of Theology?

The Atlantic School of Theology and Hospice Halifax are separate organizations. AST is the landowner of the leased property on which the hospice residence is being built. Hospice Halifax negotiated a 99-year land lease with AST and will manage the hospice residence. Hospice Halifax is a non-sectarian organization and commits to offering patients and families spiritual support that meets their individual religious or personal beliefs.

Why are you only building one, 10-bed hospice in Halifax when the need seems so great?

We recognize the need for hospice care and we have been working with the Nova Scotia Health Authority and the Department of Health and Wellness to address the need. We intend to provide service for about 150 to 200 patients a year. The hospice residence under construction at Francklyn Street in Halifax will not be expanded. However, if additional hospices are built, they will likely be located in other neighbourhoods within the Halifax Regional Municipality. Other communities in the province are developing plans with the Nova Scotia Health Authority to provide hospice residence care across the province.

How do people apply to stay at Hospice Halifax?

We are currently finalizing the eligibility criteria. The Hospice Halifax team will triage patient applications. Referrals will come from the patient’s most responsible health care professional.

What kind of care will the hospice residence offer? Who can access the care and at what cost?

Hospice Halifax, like other hospices across the country, will provide state-of-the-art palliative care and support services to individuals and their loved ones 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in a beautiful home-like setting. Clinically-directed interdisciplinary teams consisting of patients and their families, professionals, and trained volunteers will offer physical, social, spiritual, and emotional care.

Patients and their loved ones will receive the best possible compassionate care. Patients will have a group of staff and trained volunteers ready to fulfill their needs and wishes; to prepare a favourite meal, to help create a family get together, to arrange a pet’s visit, or to reconnect with nature. Patients’ rooms will accommodate overnight stays for loved ones.

Hospice is intended to honour the individual. We will provide necessary services to ensure that cultural and religious differences are prioritized and respected.
Hospice Halifax will be available to all patients at no cost.

What kind of programs will you offer?

We will continue to offer community bereavement groups and we will provide in-house patient and family support. Volunteers will offer time and professional services to provide programs for patients’ wellbeing: registered massage therapy, acupuncture, reiki, and art and music therapy, for example. The new hospice will house a learning and education centre which will provide palliative care training to small groups of professionals and community members. Our plan is to offer other programs over time.

How many people will you be hiring?

Hospice Halifax will hire about 15 clinical care workers. They will be supported by a nurse manager, a medical director, and 6 palliative care physicians. The medical staff members will work on shifts. There will be three clinical care staff members on shift during the daytime and two through the night.

In addition to the clinical staff, we will be hiring a facilities manager, food service coordinator, and administrative staff. New staff members will join our current team of CEO, medical director, nurse manager, administrative coordinator, social work coordinator, human resources manager, and communications and support services manager.

Hospice Halifax relies heavily on the dedicated work of volunteers. The new hospice residence will have about 100 well-trained volunteers upon opening.