Durban hospice closes in-patient facilities due to low funds

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Families in Durban say the Highway Hospice in Sherwood has been an incredible support system for them while they took care of their loved ones with terminal illnesses.

The hospice is among several NGOs taking financial strain since funding dwindled during the Covid-19 pandemic. Highway Hospice presented their AGM by way of video and announced the decision to close their in-patient unit, opting to shift their resources and focus on the homecare department. They also had been pushed to cut their staff compliment down from 102 to just 42 staff members.

Until two years ago, the Highway Hospice in Sherwood was among the few palliative care centres in the Greater Durban region that offered an in-patient facility.

The organisation found that closing the in-patient unit would be a better use of donor funds, as the in-patient unit cost R500 000 to operate. They are still able to send nursing staff to more than 600 people for home-based care in the greater Durban area. This is now their main area of care. But this too, needs funding to cover the costs of petrol, medicines and the nurse or doctor.

There are countless people and families, who have stepped forward to speak about how the Hospice has helped them when they most need it, and are appealing for the in-patient facility to be re-opened, because of the reprieve it offered patients as well as their families and caregivers.

Durban resident, Shirley Smith who is 85-years old was forced to become the primary caregiver to her 60-year-old son when he was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer. This was her first experience of caring for someone with a terminal illness, and she says Highway Hospice responded immediately to her calls for help.

“He actually asked sister Lauran to take him to the hospice but then she made him understand that they haven’t got in-patients so they were only doing district visits. I think he wanted to go [to the hospice] he felt more confident with them because they are in the medical field. To him he must of realised that they can do more for him than I could. They would perhaps take better care of him at the hospice than I would at home although we tried our best to do whatever we could for him,” recalled Smith of her experience.

Giselle Haupe who is a cancer patient says she is thankful for the support and encouragement she receives from the nurses at Sherwood’s Hospice. A large part of the care Haupe has needed was centred on pain management, and the nurses assisted her by supervising her use of morphine for the pain. She says that the help of the staff at the hospice improved the quality of life she lost due to her pains.

“I can never explain how thankful we are as patients for the hospice staff, and how we appreciate them for taking care of our physical needs, from holding hands to wiping away tears when the struggle gets too much. We thank them for giving us dignity and quality of life. Life is so precious and that’s exactly how they make us feel every day.” continued Haupe.

Sbonelo Mvaba, whose wife recently passed away from cancer gives account of the support he and his family received from the hospice, and is thankful that the hospital his wife was treated at referred the family to Highway Hospice.

“The hospice is very important because they take over when the hospital says there’s nothing more they can do. They do so much in helping families and patients,” concluded Mbava.

Highway Hospice continues to try raise funds from donors, and details for making donations are available on the hospice’s website for interested donors.