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'Mission Accomplished' Nipissing Serenity Hospice officially opens

'The fact that our community hospice is now a reality is the result of the support of literally thousands of individuals and organizations' Matilde Gravelle-Bazinet

More than eight years in the making, the Nipissing Serenity community residential hospice was officially opened Saturday.  

Hundreds of people attended the official ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house at its John Street location, where all patient rooms overlook Chippewa Creek.

The vision for the 10-bed residential hospice to serve the districts of Nipissing-East Parry Sound belongs to Mathilde Gravelle-Bazinet, who saw a need for a hospice in the city after experiencing her brother’s passing in a peaceful hospice setting.

“The journey our team has travelled since our incorporation in 2011 has been challenging, a bit like a roller coaster and certainly exciting,” said Gravelle-Bazinet who pointed out the hospice will provide palliative care to terminally ill patients of all ages, at a third of the cost provided in an acute care setting.  

“The fact that our community hospice is now a reality is the result of the support of literally thousands of individuals and organizations.  Vic Fedeli encouraged me since our very first meeting in 2007 when he was mayor of North Bay, and I did bend his ears on how urgently we needed a community hospice,” said Gravelle-Bazinet.  

“In 2017 he (Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli) ensured we received a capital grant of $2 million, rather than $1.2 million from the Ministry of Health, and yearly operational funding for 10 beds, not just six beds.”

Fedeli recounted being at the site in August 2018 when the shovels hit the ground.

He quoted Gravelle-Bazinet’s words at the time when she stated: “The start of construction was the culmination of seven years of tireless work by a team of dedicated volunteers who all share the same vision; a peaceful park-like setting where the terminally ill and their loved ones could be cared for with compassion, dignity, and respect.”

Fedeli told the crowd Gravelle-Bazinet has delivered exactly what she had envisioned, and under budget.

He went on to thank everyone involved from volunteers to donors, for helping to create this new palliative care facility “That will provide quality end of life care to patients right across the Nipissing region.”

Fedeli’s own family has donated a respite room for family members to get a good night’s sleep.

“Nipissing now has 24-hour palliative care from an expert, multi-disciplinary team that includes physicians, nurses, personal support workers, social workers, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, pharmacists, palliative care volunteers, and multi-faith chaplaincy. We now have access to grief and bereavement counselling for patients, family, and friends,” Fedeli said.  

Nipissing-Timiskaming MP Anthony Rota said the hospice provides another level of palliative care.

“My mother was in palliative care at the hospital from August all the way to January last year. So, it makes for a very long stretch. The institution and the people were wonderful, but a hospice would make it that much easier for people who are losing their family. So, to me, a hospice is very important and something we can be very proud of as a community, because we all came together and we all made a difference,” said Rota.

The John Street property valued at $240,000 was purchased from the city for one dollar.

“The one thing our community was missing was a hospice. So, it is a very special day for the city of North Bay. We are very proud. But it is the community that rallied around Mathilde and her team that makes our city so special, the board of directors, the people that donated, the sponsors and volunteers. It is just an incredible feeling knowing that our family members will be looked after here,” said McDonald.

“I can tell you this is spectacular. It is a very warm place where you feel welcome and comfortable.”

The paediatric room at the hospice is named in memory of Dr. Murray Pace and his grandson Alex who passed away when he was just 11 years old.

“You have created a truly special place for patients and their families to spend their final days together, fully supported by a team of expert palliative care providers,” said Kate Pace Lindsay who served as honourary co-chair along with Dr. Jon Dellandrea.

The hospice design includes a Sacred Room respecting cultural needs.

As a registered not-for-profit organization partially funded by the government, fundraising efforts will continue on an on-going basis.

There is no charge to patients or families.

“Families can give whatever they wish, but if they can’t that is fine,” said Gravelle-Bazinet.

“The Ministry of Health only provides 60 per cent of our operational costs. So, we will have to raise about 40 per cent on an annual basis.”

Of the 30 staff members, roughly 21 are full-time.

” It is going to be a home environment for them (patients). There is always going to be a physician on-call so patients will never be alone. No one deserves to die alone.”

During her remarks, Gravelle-Bazinet announced she will be stepping down from her current role as board chair.

Filling the position is Vivian Papaiz who served as vice-chair and brings her expertise in palliative care nursing to the position.

“As the incoming chair, I have big shoes to fill to follow in Mathilde’s legacy. The first thing we’re looking at is bringing in our first patients. We have opened up our referral process and we’re waiting for our first patients to come to us over the next week or so,” Papaiz said.

“Statistics show the average length of stay is about 18 days, but we typically see shorter lengths of stays somewhere from 8 to 10 days.”

The children’s playroom is donated in honour of long-time volunteer Jim Marmino by his family.

Marmino and fellow volunteer Adelle Williams zeroed in on the property and were instrumental in fundraising efforts. Unfortunately, both passed before they could see their dream become a reality.  

Judy Fullerton and her young grandson were just two of the hundreds of people attending the open house.

“I think it is wonderful for the community. It is just incredible. I went through an experience last year where I lost my mother and she was not able to stay in her home even with community supports. Her passing was very sad,” said Fullerton.

“I think this is just wonderful. It seems very homey and it has the wonderful (therapeutic) bathing room for the patients. I just think it is fantastic.”

Bob Smith is Grand Knight of Council 12106 Knights of Columbus which also donated.

“We had to wait a long time for something like this in North Bay, but it was worth the wait. If you take a look at the grounds around here and the view from each of the rooms, it is absolutely beautiful, and very accessible, located on a bus route,” said Smith.

“And the research the team did to put this building in place is fantastic. They talked to a lot of other hospices and got a lot of good ideas and they incorporated them here. So, for us here in the north, I think this is the state of the art.”