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Increasing demand . . . Otago Community Hospice chief executive Ginny Green says this week's Hospice Awareness Week will focus on raising awareness of services and celebrating the international year of the nurse and midwife. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Hospice Awareness Week will look a little different this year.

There will be no street collections, no community events – just a ”wee reminder that we’re here, really”, Otago Community Hospice chief executive Ginny Green said.

“We’re trying to fly a little bit under the radar this year, because people have got so many other things on their minds,” Ms Green said.

Hospice Awareness Week starts on Sunday, and Otago Community Hospice’s focus was on raising awareness about its services and celebrating the international year of the nurse and midwife.

“The bulk of our workforce is nursing and we’re really keen to highlight and celebrate the role that nursing plays in palliative care and hospice,” she said.

In North Otago, demand for the Otago Community Hospice’s services continued to grow – 20 to 25 patients used the hospice’s services at any one time, she said.

To cater for the increased demand, another community care co-ordinator had been hired.

Ms Green said Oamaru’s ageing population was a factor, but she also highlighted the greater awareness of what hospices could offer.

“Our reputation has grown – so the more people who get touched by our services, the more likely people are to use our services,” she said.

The North Otago Hospice Hub – comprising a training centre, clinic space and counselling room – had become a “fabulous” asset for North Otago, Ms Green said.

Community fundraising, spearheaded by Oamaru restaurateur Sally-Ann Donnelly and including a bequest from the late Nigel Wilson, brought the hub to life and it was officially opened in December 2018.

“The shop is incredible. We knew that we needed a bigger space and we were absolutely right – it’s just gone crazy,” she said.

“Services [in North Otago] have grown in volume and in cost, so it’s great that the shop covers that off.”

About 30% of Otago Community Hospice’s income came from its seven shops.

“Of course, they closed a few days before we went into Level 4, so that’s a significant chunk of our fundraising gone overnight,” she said.

Fundraising events had also been cancelled, but some donations and grants were still “trickling in”, she said.

The Otago Community Hospice was fortunate to have a contract with the Southern District Health Board to deliver services, Ms Green said.

“It doesn’t cover all of our costsĀ  – that’s why we’ve got to fundraise – but we’ve got the contract, we’ve got the wage subsidy, so we are a lot better off than some of our NGO colleagues in the sector.

“That said, we need to start ramping up [fundraising], so we’ll be opening up the shops in Level 2 in a limited way.”

The Oamaru hospice shop reopens on Thursday, but with restrictions in place and reduced days and hours.

“We can’t wait to get the shop back . . . humming and get talking to Sally-Ann about what next event we’ll have up there.”

Other Otago Community Hospice services, vital in the middle of a pandemic, continued during lockdown, but staff were working from home where they could – and that would continue in Level 2.

“Our service is vulnerable in that we’ve got quite a small specialist team,” Ms Green said.

“We’ve got an inpatient unit and a whopping big community service and our aged residential service, so there’s three quite unique parts of our organisation and we can’t cross contaminate them.”

The hospice had started offering its Kowhai Programme for patient carers, and masterclasses in palliative care for GPs, in Oamaru before lockdown.

“Education [programmes] will start happening again in Level 2, so long as we can control the venue and the numbers,” she said.