A long-time vision and hope for the Cowichan Hospice Society and local health community has finally come to reality as the Cowichan Hospice House was officially opened on Dec. 22.
The opening of the “House that Love Built”, as the $10-million facility located next to Duncan’s Cairnsmore Place is affectionately called, was celebrated virtually on Facebook due to the ongoing pandemic.
Christa Fox, chairwoman of the Cowichan Hospice House Task Force, said she was thrilled to host the opening event, which included speeches from political and community leaders.
“We had hoped to gather in-person outside, but this is no less significant as we share with you a virtual community welcome and open house for the House that Love Built, hosted by Island Health and Cowichan Hospice,” Fox said.
“It has long been our vision that the Cowichan Hospice House welcome everyone from our community. Together, we can make that happen.”
The Cowichan Hospice House, which has been in operation since Nov. 2, offers 24-hour compassionate, professional care, expert pain and symptom management and support for patients who can no longer be cared for at home, and their families.
The hospice offers a soothing home-like environment featuring private rooms with adjustable cuddle beds for loved ones to lie alongside one another, as well as a spa area with a soaker tub for patients.
Families have access to a kitchen and gathering spaces, as well as to a children’s play area.
A sacred space offers room for quiet meditation or a sacred gathering. Elders from Cowichan Tribes offered advice and guidance on some building design features.
Island Health is providing the medical care and $1.4 million in annual operational costs at the 10-bed facility, and Cowichan Hospice is providing the emotional and practical support for patients.
Cowichan Hospice led the fundraising of $10 million in capital costs for the new facility.
Of this total, up to $6.14 million will be contributed by the Cowichan Valley Regional Hospital District and approximately $2.1 million from the Cowichan District Hospital Foundation, including funds matched by the community.
Cowichan Tribes, four Cowichan Valley health-care auxiliaries including the Chemainus Health Care Auxiliary, the Chemainus Health Care Foundation, the Purica Foundation, service clubs and other community members made contributions to the construction of Cowichan Hospice House.
The Chemainus Health Care Auxiliary made $100,000 contributions in three successive years and the Foundation provided $100,000 in 2019.
The five Rotary Clubs in the region also raised funds to build the gardens.
While the Cowichan Hospice House is now open, the existing Cowichan Hospice office on Gibbins Road will remain open and continue to provide free end-of-life and grief support to individuals and families in the Cowichan region.
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said the opening of the facility was a “great day” and commended everyone in the community who was involved in raising the money to build it.
“This was an extraordinary contribution by those who support hospice care in the Cowichan Valley, Island Health and everyone who knows what a difference high-quality and compassionate end-of-life care mean in a community,” Dix said.
“We’re truly grateful for everyone involved in this project.”
Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau said it has been a long journey for those involved in the building project.
She said she remembers years ago when Cowichan Hospice’s executive director Gretchen Hartley spoke to the board at the Cowichan Valley Regional District, when Furstenau sat as the director for Shawnigan Lake, about plans to build Cowichan Hospice House.
“The commitment of Gretchen and the board stands out,” Furstenau said.
“It’s wonderful to celebrate this important step for the community with board members, the community, Island Health, Adrian Dix and everyone else.”
Doug Routley, MLA for Nanaimo-North Cowichan, said work was ongoing for 15 years to plan and build the facility.
“When the community comes together, great things can happen,” he said.