Hospice Chief executive DR KEITH MUNRO says the new refurbishment/improvements programme at the Foyle Hospice is just the latest chapter in a remarkable story.
“In June 1991, the Foyle Hospice in-patient unit opened its doors to those patients in need of palliative and end-of-life care.
“Those doors have remained open since and are as welcoming as ever.
“The realisation of a dream by Dr Tom McGinley has been one of the greatest and well-known facilities in the north-west, providing high levels of nursing and medical care for patients, and their families, at a time of great need.
“During the 22 intervening years, there have been many challenges faced by the hospice - all of which have been weathered through the devotion of staff and the generosity of a very giving public.
“The Board of Trustees decided in April 2011 to accept a generous offer from Mura Mullan, an up-and-coming local architect, to draw up some suggestions for patient-room improvement. She is now working in England and designs rooms for hospices.
“From that initial offer, the process snowballed and the Trustees decided to take on the £500,000 project of upgrading. It was felt that patients and families deserved the best and most modern facilities. We are now in Phase 3 of the building plan. Patients are already using the new rooms and experiencing the benefits.
“Each room now opens onto a patio which can be enjoyed when the weather is suitable.
“Special glass for the rooms retains heat which lowers the mounting heating bills. The rooms are fitted out to the highest standards and are now suitable for the next 20 years or more.
“Caroline Dickson was the appointed architect for this largest of the projects.
“There have been many people involved on the sub-contracting side of things but the over-all builder in charge must have special mention, namely Richard Gamble. His personal involvement and sensitivity has been remarkable throughout. The timing for completion of Phases 1 and 2 has been impeccable.
“Parallel with the building work, the hospice’s ‘greening policy’ has been implemented. We now have photovoltaic panels on the roof virtually producing our own electricity. Solar panels have also been fitted thus reducing our ever-mounting oil bills.
“I must take the opportunity to mention the current financial challenge for the hospice.
“Historically, we have had to raise about 75% of our annual revenue from a very supportive and generous public. This is the highest percentage of any hospice in Northern Ireland. During the ‘good years’, this support always met its target. Now, however, with the world financial crisis, it has become more and more difficult. Funds raised from the public fell by some £115,000 last year - more than 10% lower in one year.
“The annual budget for the whole hospice operation, including Day Care and Home Care, is now about £2.8 million. We employ more than 80 people and value the services of some 350 volunteers. Grants from statutory sources have remained less than 20%, despite sequential Ministers of Health suggesting that hospices in Northern Ireland should be funded to the tune of 50%.
“Consultation with the HSC goes on and we are still hopeful that an uplift will be forthcoming.
“In spite of these challenges, the hospice is not in any immediate financial danger. However, if these steps had not been taken now, in years to come these problems could become more serious.
Currently, the challenge is to stabilise the financial state and accumulate more funds to develop future services for those in need of palliative and end-of-life care.
Finally, I must say that all of us at the hospice were delighted with the news of the recent Freedom of the City honour bestowed on Dr Tom McGinley, the founder and driving force for the hospice for well over 30 years.
He has given the north-west an institution of inestimable worth way beyond any monetary value. It is now up to us to preserve and grow it into the long-term future. “Thanks Tom and also thank you to each and every one reading this message who continues to support the work of the hospice.”