Business as usual for hard-working hospice

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It is Hospice Awareness Week next week, from May 17 to 24, and Otago Community Hospice chief executive Ginny Green is hoping this will be a reminder to many of the great work of the service that has continued to care for patients across Otago during the Covid-19 pandemic.

An increase in the use of video conferencing during the Covid-19 isolation restrictions has had benefits for some rural patients of the Otago Community Hospice.
Chief executive Ginny Green said the service had changed significantly over the past two years.

Two years ago, about 80 to 85% of its patients were based in urban areas, but now about 40% to 50% were rurally based.
‘‘That’s not just Central Otago, that’s through North and South Otago as well.’’
At any given time, the service had about 50 to 60 patients in Central Otago.
‘‘It may not sound a lot in numbers but if you surround that patient with a family, with a GP and with other care providers, it is quite a significant amount of work for the team.’’

As the number of patients had grown, team numbers had increased in Central Otago.
‘‘Most of the care that we deliver is in the person’s home,’’ she said.
‘‘Throughout Otago we’ve got about 220 patients on the go at any given time, and only three or four patients will be in the inpatients unit in Dunedin.’’ Most of the care was tailored to where the patients wanted to be, Ms Green said.
‘‘So we support them in their own homes and we also support aged residential care facilities that have got patients that are dying.’’

The hospice had 85 staff throughout Otago and 85% of them were clinical staff directly related to patient care.
During the Covid-19 restrictions it had been business as usual for staff.
‘‘We still have patients, we are still accepting new patients, we are still supporting them.’’
There had been some changes to how the patients were being supported, as there had been much less face-to-face contact, than they would normally prefer, Ms Green said.
‘‘A lot of what we do is all about making that physical connection with a patient, so most of our contacts in level 4 were obviously on telephone and over video conferencing.
‘‘So although it is business as usual, it is quite different.’’

As the country moved through Covid-19 alert level 2, there would be opportunities for face-to-face contact, but the team had also become more experienced in using video conferencing.
‘‘Our staff have had to turn themselves into IT specialists.’’
This experience would continue to be of benefit beyond the Covid-19 restrictions, Ms Green said.
‘‘I don’t think we will ever go back to working the way we were pre-Covid-19.
‘‘We’ve had some great opportunities to change the way we work for the better, so I think routine follow-ups with patients in the community are more likely to be video conferencing, or over the telephone.’’
‘‘When things are more complex and a hands-on face-to-face assessment is required, that is when it is really important that we are visiting people at home.’’

During Hospice Awareness Week Ms Green encouraged people to think about donating to the service.
‘‘For the last eight weeks our ability to fund-raise has been just about zip, so if people can find it in their heart to make a donation or donate some preloved good quality goods to one of our shops we would be very grateful.’’
– To give visit otagohospice.co.nz/donate