Poignant moment to open palliative care centre

It was a poignant week for the opening of the $600,000 extension and refurbishment of the Cora Adcock Palliative Care Centre in Mona Vale, according to Pittwater MP Rob Stokes.

The centre was first established in October 1989 and houses HammondCare’s Northern Beaches Palliative and Support Care Service which provides community palliative care to local residents with life-limiting illnesses.Mr Stokes was joined in cutting the ribbon at the opening by long-term supporters of the centre, Federal Member for Mackellar Bronwyn Bishop, and past president of the Mona Vale Hospital Auxiliary, Eileen Gordon.

“This is a very poignant week for the opening of this facility. It has been a tragic week for the community of Pittwater,” Mr Stokes said.

“We had the fire on the Barrenjoey Headland on the weekend. We had the disaster at Mona Vale Road on Tuesday, and we've just had a house fire in Mona Vale where, fortunately, two small children were rescued in time.

“This shows, very dramatically, how impermanent life is and points to the real things that actually matter. It is wrong to think that what matters is how much we acquire. What matters is what we give. What matters is the community we build together.

“The mark of any great community is not what it has, but what it does. This facility is an example of a community working together to get a great outcome, not for itself, but for those yet to come. And it is a tremendous tribute to everyone who participated that this has become a reality today."

Thousands of patients supported

HammondCare’s General Manager of Health and Hospitals, Stewart James, explained the importance of the building as the base for community palliative care across the Northern Beaches.

Mr James said that in the past 12 months nurses, allied health professionals and doctors conducted more than 1000 home visits to people with serious life-limiting illness and about 1000 clinics were held by health professionals at the centre.

“Demographics show that in Northern Sydney and the Northern Beaches the number over 65s in the next 13 years is due to grow by 47 per cent and people aged over 85 will number 42,000.

“Thanks to the many contributions that have made possible additional clinic rooms, additional therapy rooms, bereavement rooms, social work rooms, this service can grow and more and more people can access the specialist services for pain and symptom control and to improve the quality of life in their last days.”

Thanks to generous supporters

Mr James thanked all those who had supported the palliative care service and helped make the major improvements to the centre a reality.

These included Joanne Steeves and the Friends of Northern Beaches Palliative Care, Eileen Gordon and the Mona Vale Hospital Auxiliary, medical leader of the service Dr Peter Moore, CE of NSLHD Vicki Taylor and representatives of Northern Sydney Local Health District, the Rotary Clubs of Pittwater, Dee Why and Warringah and Terry Hills, as well Rob Stokes.

Mr James said that towards the end of the project it became clear that there would be insufficient funds to build the large verandah that would join the two parts of the centre together and provide a restful location for patients to enjoy the sweeping views.

“To show there are greater hands than ours supporting palliative care, the Shirley Greathead Foundation rang Julian Martin [HammondCare Foundation] and said we have a $35,000 donation for palliative care. And so… the balcony was built to finish off the project, a great way to bring the whole thing together.”

Time for a hospice?

Eileen Gordon spoke about the 21-year journey of seeing the extension and refurbishment completed, the vast fundraising efforts, the bureaucratic negotiations and the passionate devotion of many including Cora Adcock, for whom the building is named.

“So the whole journey took 21 years but we got there, we've got it, and now, we need a hospice,” Eileen said in finishing her remarks, receiving loud applause.

Mr Stokes concurred saying that the NSW Government was committed to the hospital at Mona Vale and although it was not yet clear as to the exact nature of future services on the site, he believed inpatient palliative care should be included.

“Certainly my belief is that palliative care must be a crucial ingredient in that future for that [hospital] facility. Again, none of us could think of a more appropriate place.”