‘Death is a part of life’: Saskatchewan’s first stand-alone hospice opens

“Yes they will die but right now they’re still living, and we will do everything to make that life as meaningful as possible.”

Samaritan Place executive director Bette Boechler said the 15-bed Hospice at Glengarda is designed to provide a “missing component” in end-of-life care that lets patients be close to both family and medical care.  “I want people to know this is not a doom and gloom place,” Boechler said. “This is where people come in and they’re living. And yes they will die but right now they’re still living, and we will do everything to make that life as meaningful as possible.”

SASKATOON, SK-- January 21/2021 - 0125 news hospice opening - Lecina Hicke, the CEO of the St. Paul's Hospital Foundation, stands for a photo with Bette Boechler, executive director of the Hospice at Glengarda, in Saskatchewan's first free-standing hospice which is accepting its first patients next week. Photo taken in Saskatoon on Thursday, January 21, 2021. (Saskatoon StarPhoenix / Michelle Berg)
Lecina Hicke, the CEO of the St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation, stands for a photo with Boechler inside the new hospice. Photo by Michelle Berg /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation CEO and fundraising campaign director Lecina Hicke said the hospice has been a goal since she joined the organization in 2011.

“It was always something that was just kind of out of grasp, out of reach,” she said.

The original goal was to open the hospice in 2025, but Hicke said the foundation raised a staggering $21 million in just three years, including a recent $250,000 gift from Orano Canada.

Hicke said the pace of fundraising reflects a deep desire for the hospice in the community.
“Death is a part of life, and we’re all going to face it and it is a reality for everybody. So what does it mean to the community at large? I think it’s a sense of acknowledgment, and an understanding, and maybe a conversation that’s not easy to have, but one we have to face,” she said.Boechler said the hospice is meant for patients in their final 30 days of life who have medical needs that can’t be managed at home. She said sometimes family caregivers can struggle to provide adequate care in that setting. There is a palliative care unit at St. Paul’s Hospital, she noted, but the hospice complements that by offering a less intensive option.“What I’m finding is staff are very passionate about this kind of care and this population,” Boecher said. “I always say to them: it’s a privilege and an honour to be part of a patient’s end of life journey.”

The hospice is owned by St. Paul’s Hospital and governed by Emmanuel Health, a Catholic health care organization. It does not offer medical assistance in dying, or MAiD.

Emmanuel Health President and CEO Jean Morrison said the hospice is meant to supplement limited palliative care options that currently exist and that staff can help transfer patients to facilities that do offer MAiD if that is their wish.

“We do work with those clients respectfully and we do get them to a location where they can get the treatment or the service they’re looking for,” Morrison said.

Hicke said the ending of the campaign is “bittersweet,” because it falls during the pandemic. There will be no grand opening, and the first visitors will have to follow the visitation restrictions in place at many health facilities. Ultimately, she’s grateful to see the doors open and the many names of donors on the wall, she said.
“Has it been a long journey? Yes. Has it been worth every step? Absolutely.”