Longtime palliative care association gives boost to Rose Garden Hospice before shutting down

After more than 30 years of operation, the Prince Albert Parkland Hospice Palliative Care Association is closing its doors.

Since 1991, the organization has worked to support palliative patients and their families, while also educating local residents and healthcare professionals about the latest developments in palliative care. The group de-registered as a not-for-profit organization, and donated their remaining funds to the Rose Garden Hospice on Oct. 20.

Prince Albert nurse Christine Rye and her husband, Dr. John Rye, have been members since the very beginning. Christine said closing down was a difficult decision, but one they had to make.

“We’ve struggled for a few years not being able to get many new members to be able to help, and we were all retiring except for two people,” she explained following the donation at the Rose Garden Hospice office in Gateway Mall.

“We’re all getting older, and we’re no longer in the field. I mean, we can volunteer, but we’re no longer going to those conferences and finding those speakers anymore.”

Holding conferences and finding speakers was one of the primary ways the Palliative Care Association helped the community. Interested residents and healthcare professionals would come to Prince Albert from across Saskatchewan.

President Marj Bodnarchuk said she’s proud of the work the association did in its 31-year history.

“Education became a very big part of our goals,” Bodnarchuk remembered. “We had some wonderful conferences over the years. We had people attending from Nipawin, Big River, Shellbrook, La Ronge, Rosthern, Wakaw, Saskatoon, even people would come from Regina for our conferences, because we always really operated them on a budget that was really affordable, and sometimes our speakers would wave their fee because it was for a palliative care conference.”

The association began operations in September 1991 during a meeting in the lower levels of Victoria Hospital. The initial group included representatives from both the Victoria and Holy Family hospitals, physicians, pastors, home care service providers, and interested residents.

Initially, they were known as the Prince Albert and District Palliative Care Association, but later changed their name to the Prince Albert Parkland Hospice Palliative Care Association.

Their goal was to develop and improve palliative care in a province where few people outside the healthcare professions knew what it was.

“There weren’t things like pressure-relieving mattresses,” Christine remembered. “There weren’t pain pumps, so they initially started providing some, or getting funds so they could provide them for the patients. That was a huge part of what they started with, as well as the education (aspect) because, well, palliative care was definitely not really known here.”

While group members are sad about closing the organization down, they’re incredibly optimistic about the future of palliative care in Prince Albert.

They said having a facility like the Rose Garden Hospice is a dream come true for palliative care supporters. Donating their remaining funds to the organization was an easy decision.

“It’s been a fantastic team to work with,” Dr. John Rye said. “People are going to be able to live their life to the full, even when their life is very restricted, and that will be true for every racial group, every disease group, and for every band of wealth in the City. That will enable some people to stay at home longer, because they know they have a backup if they need it.”

“We had hoped for years and years that a hospice would be created in Prince Albert, and the people who established the Rose Garden Hospice Association, they have been really working hard to fundraise for years and years to ensure that this would happen eventually,” Bodnarchuk added. “A few years ago the province of Saskatchewan stepped up and promised operational funding for the hospice and that was the key to getting it started.

“All of the dreams and plans that had been made for years and years were finally going to happen because there was the promise that the funding would be there for the future years, and with that promise, a lot of people in the community stepped up and just ensured the project would be built.”

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