Construction underway for Hospice at Glengarda

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

The Hospice at Glengarda project continues to move forward, with a number of major gift announcements in recent months, and construction underway after a sod-turning celebration in May.

Bishop Mark Hagemoen of the Roman Catholic diocese of Saskatoon blessed the site during the May 28, 2019 ground-breaking ceremony, which included the announcement of a $2 million gift to the Close to Home campaign from Les and Irene Dubé.

The Close to Home campaign to build Saskatchewan’s first stand-alone residential hospice on the site of the former Ursuline convent at Hilliard Street and Melrose Avenue in southeast Saskatoon, is now even closer to its $20-million goal. A number of other major gifts have been announced in recent months, following on an initial $6-million anonymous donation given in honour of the late Gord Engel, whose story helped to launch the campaign

Moving testimony about what the Hospice at Glengarda will mean to patients and families at the end of life was provided at the sod-turning by patient advisor Delores Wolfe, who is one of those who has given input into the design and operation of the new facility.

Wolfe described the vision for the Hospice at Glengarda: “Here, a dying person (who one day could be me), can find a second home. Here my pain and other physical symptoms will be managed by a physician and staff who are trained and experienced in caring for the dying. Here there will be familiar, home-like sounds and sights and smells, like the smell of cookies baking in the oven, the sound of a child’s voice, the comfort of a pet’s visit, the opportunity to gaze at a fire in the fireplace and the relaxation of soaking in a tub… Here the spiritual and psychological tasks that I will face when I am dying will be supported in art therapy, in music that stirs emotions and memories, in spiritual care, and in a general environment that encourages me to address these tasks. Here I will know that my loved ones too are receiving what they need as they care for me as they can. They will have people to turn to with their concerns and their own grieving process.”

Among those in the crowd witnessing the official sod- turning was Sr. Anne Lewans, OSU. After the celebration, she described how the Ursulines of Prelate are pleased that plans for their former residence to become a residential hospice are now becoming a reality. “This is evidence today that it is finally happening and I am so pleased — and all the sisters are really, really happy that this is the way the residence is going,” she said.

Construction of this new 15-bed hospice in Saskatoon will add another important dimension to palliative care in the community, said Dr. Vivian Walker, Co-Medical Director of Palliative Care Services in Saskatoon and Close to Home Campaign Chair.

Dr. Vivian Walker, Co-Medical Director of Palliative Care Services in Saskatoon and Close to Home Campaign Co-Chair.

Palliative care is not so much about a facility as it is about a philosophy of care when a cure is not possible, explained Walker in an interview earlier this year. “Palliative care is really about providing excellent care when you have a life limiting illness,” she said. “It is care that helps a person live out their last season of life.”

Most of us long to spend that last season of life in our own home, but that is not always possible when medical needs require more advanced hands-on care, she said. That is where the palliative care offered in a hospital or hospice is needed.

To have a hospice as part of the palliative care services provided in the community will offer a “close to home” option, and will make palliative care more available.

“Having spiritual care alongside the physical care, and having the healing arts alongside, is so important — just like when we go to any tough place in our life, it is generally not spoken words that we need – but it is the heart stuff that matters most.” Spiritual care, music and art therapy, care for the family are all part of the strength of palliative care, Walker said.

“It is like palliative care is a blanket, which you wrap around a patient, and a family, to keep them warm when trouble has come. That is why there will be spiritual space in the building, attention to light, attention to (the needs of) all faiths so everyone is welcome.”

In addition to funding construction of the hospice, the Close to Home campaign is also directed at strengthening palliative care in the community in other ways.

“We want to make sure that palliative care is available to all, and that no one stands outside of exceptional care, when they face life-limiting illness – and espe-cially as life seems to be coming to the last season,” Walker said.

Therefore, other priorities for the Close to Home campaign include: establishing Holistic Care Endowments to provide bereavement care, spiritual care and healing arts therapy to patients and families facing end-of-life, both in the Hospice at Glengarda and in the community;

establishing an Education Fund to enrich the skills of professional end-of-life care-givers and community members in Saskatoon; and undertaking needed renovations to the Palliative Care Unit at St. Paul’s Hospital.

“Given companionship and great care, the process of approaching death can be made so much more comfortable, and less scary,” said Walker.

“That is how I want to go – good music playing, and my family held and supported, and having the time and the ability to say thank you to all the people who have made such an imprint on my life.”

For the latest updates, and/or to donate online, see the St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation campaign site:  or call (306) 655-5821 or e-mail for more information.