Helderberg Hospice adjusts to unusual times

The Helderberg Hospice and front garden.

On the evening of Sunday March 29, we heard our president announce an unprecedented lockdown of our country, resulting in a number of us having a sleepless night working out how to move forward with such an unprecedented occurrence.

Monday morning saw us all, in the office, having emergency meetings, with the support of our Board of Directors, to plan the way forward.

A major task for our managers was to immediately reassure all of our staff that plans were being put in place and there was no immediate need for concern.

We had already been distributing and displaying the relevant information provided by reliable and responsible sources, encouraging everyone to distribute this information in their own communities.

Our first concern, as always, was for our patients and their families as we knew that their care supplied by us had to continue unabated.

Our homecare team and their nursing services manager – all fully qualified and very experienced palliative care sisters, arranged that with effect from the mandated shutdown, they would be working from home, supporting and advising their entire patient load.

This work would be done telephonically where possible, but otherwise home visits would be done – following a strict protocol of investigation surrounding any possible Covid-19 contact.

In addition, prescriptions and medication had to be arranged for the lockdown period, so all hands were on deck in order to make this happen.

We had to take the very difficult decision to temporarily close our “24-hour support unit” for housing patients for short periods, this was for the very first time since it was opened.

The patients that had been in the unit were transferred home, following us ensuring that all necessary care and support was in place, and have continued to be supported by our homecare team.

The main reason for this decision was the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (P.P.E.) available for our staff – to date we still cannot source the necessary masks, aprons and gloves and simply cannot ask our staff to work unprotected during these uncertain times.

Where are we today – a week after the start of the lockdown?

Our patients and their families are being fully supported by their own homecare sisters 24 hours a day.

Our social work team assists by offering all necessary support and counselling to our patients and their families as requested.

We are in regular contact with our partners in care e.g. our own palliative care doctor, Helderberg Hospital and the Department of Health and Social Development.

Our administration team are all working remotely.

We continue to be in regular contact, offering support and guidance to our team in the field.

We desperately await P.P.E. and welcome any help.

In short – the work goes on – just differently – for now, and we all look forward to an end to these difficult and unsettling times. Helderberg Hospice is here for the Helderberg community.

Gail Sykes is the chief executive officer of Helderberg Hospice, located at Old Stellenbosch Road, Somerset West.