Close to Home campaign includes 15-bed residential hospice – and more

Artist Marlessa Wesolowski works with patients in the palliative care unit at St. Paul’s Hospital. A Holistic Care Endowment funded through a recently-launched Close to Home campaign will support healing arts therapy. (Photo by Matthew Braden Smith)

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

St. Paul’s Hospital’s long-standing focus on providing both quality palliative care and holistic care to body, mind and spirit will be deepened, enhanced  and more widely available because of initiatives supported through a recently-launched fundraising campaign.

The $20-million Close to Home campaign by St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation will strengthen end-of-life services in the community: first of all through construction of the province’s first free-standing residential hospice, the planned 15-bed Hospice at Glengarda.

The second priority in the campaign will establish a Holistic Care Endowment to provide spiritual care, healing arts therapy and bereavement care to patients and families facing the end of life – both within the hospice and in the wider community. The campaign will also fund the establishment of an Palliative Care Education Fund to increase the knowledge and skills of those providing end-of-life care.

Finally, the campaign will raise funds for much-needed renovations to the existing 12-bed Palliative Care Unit at St. Paul’s Hospital.

St. Paul’s Hospital’s mission of being “A Community of Health, Hope, and Compassion for All” has always encompassed loving care for those who are dying, which is also a long-standing Christian tradition, points out Leah Perrault, Director of Mission at St. Paul’s Hospital in Saskatoon.

Leah Perrault, Director of Mission at St. Paul’s Hospital in Saskatoon.

“Catholics throughout the centuries, and certainly now, have always had a special place in their hearts for caring for the dying,” she notes.

“The best witness we can be at the end of life is to wrap people in the kind of care that allows them to experience Christ, whether they belong to our church, other churches, different faiths, or not.”

Under a partnership agreement, first with the Saskatoon Health Region and now working alongside the Saskatchewan Health Authority, palliative care is among the services provided at St. Paul’s Hospital.

“Our mission is to ensure that people have a place where what they need will be provided, so they can live as fully as possible, right until they die. This aligns really well with the vision of hospice and palliative care, which is to stop seeing the illness that will eventually take some-one’s life as a threat to be conquered, and instead, to see it as a journey to walk through,” says Perrault.

Campaign co-chairs donate $700,000:  Major gift announced

Anonymous donation of $6 million announced:  Close to Home campaign launched

The need far outweighs the 12 beds currently provided in the Palliative Care Unit at St. Paul’s Hospital and supported by the hospital’s holistic care, spiritual care, and healing arts programs.

“People will say things like: ‘we felt like we won the lottery when we got a bed in the Palliative Care Unit,’” observes Perrault. “It shouldn’t be that way. One hundred per cent of people are going to die … but we have a long way to go to ensure that all who need it will have access to hospice palliative care.”

Building a new 15-bed hospice will certainly help in expanding those services. “When the end of life is nearing, and the care becomes too much for a family to manage, there will be another place where it is still possible to hear music, where it is still possible to do crafts, or eat a meal, to watch a favourite sports game; to gather around and spend Christmas, or Thanksgiving, or a birthday with someone you love, knowing that it might be the last one: that is pure gift.”

Palliative care is not about a place, rather, it is a philosophy, stresses Perrault. “It shouldn’t be an island, where only a few have access. It should be a service that can be extended into the community.”

That is where the Holistic Care Endowment will play a role, as St. Paul’s Hospital will work with a number of partners – such as community groups, care homes, or families journeying at home with those approaching the end of life – to provide holistic care services, which would include the healing arts, professional spiritual care, and bereavement care.

End of life care is not just about physical care, Perrault explains. “Of course, we want to make sure you are not dying in pain, and treating that pain is really critical. But what about treating your heart? What about the forgiveness story that still needs to be written before you go? What about that life story you have been wanting to tell, but you haven’t had time? Our writer in residence can help with writing that story. Our music therapist can bring to life memories in music and notes that you didn’t know you had, or help bring healing to a wounded relationship. Art therapy and the artist in residence can help bring someone into touch with emotions that they haven’t dealt with for a long time. Your doctor has a role, your therapist has a role, but your healing is about so much more.”

The Holistic Care Endowment for the healing arts, for spiritual care and bereave-ment care will ensure that when budgets get tight, those essentials to that holistic practice will not fall by the wayside, she adds.

“We want to make access to holistic palliative care more equitable, to ensure that all those who are facing the end of life and walking that path with their families and communities have the physical, spiritual, creative, emotional, and relational supports that they need at the end of life.”

To learn more about the Close to Home campaign see: or contact St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation at (306) 655-5821.