Message from the CEO : Melissa Knox : 1st Quarter 2021

19 April 2021 marks the 30th Birthday of St Bernard’s Hospice. As a Not for profit organisation, that have helped 1000s of patients and families cope with terminal illnesses such as cancer, motor-neu

ron disease or multiple sclerosis over this time period, we are proud of the fact that we are still making an incredible impact in our Buffalo City community.

As we light our candles to celebrate this incredible milestone, it is hard to dispel the darkness that threatens our continued existence. In fact, keeping silent about it would be a social injustice.

Most Not for Profit Organisations have been taking significant strain over the past 8 years as international donor funding into South Africa has reduced drastically, while the South African Economy itself has been taking strain, unable to meet the growing demands of rising inflation and unemployment rates. While the economy worsens, certain societal needs increase – and so NGOs find themselves in strange times where the demand for their work increases, but support for it, decreases.

An example of how this change in funding landscape impacted on us in a major way, is noting that the In-Patient unit had to be closed in 2013. This not only had a negative impact on our community, but it also impacted negatively on Hospice in that people then thought that all of Hospice closed, despite our Home Care Programme remaining active. All of this happened before anyone ever dreamt that we will see something like Covid-19 in our lifetime. But March 2020 also happened and life as we know it has not been the same since. 

Not many struggling NGOs who have entered COVID-19 have made it out thus far. Thanks to a few unshakeable supporters, donors and our Charity Shop, St Bernard’s Hospice has stepped into 2021. But, we are lighting borrowed candles for our birthday this year, and have had to reduce our work force in past 12 months.

Since our In Patient Unit closed in 2013, we have cared for 3114 patients alone (this is not counting the countless family members we have assisted). These patients received a total of 169 911 home visits. During the Covid pandemic alone, if we look at the past 12 months we have cared for 414 unique patients, through 9 614 visits, and supported an additional 357 family members, through 3 057 visits.

Can you imagine Buffalo City, without a Hospice? Can you imagine all those people who would have to suffer in isolation and pain? Grieve alone?

Maybe these numbers simply look like statistics, but if you live in Buffalo City, and you know someone who passed away from cancer in the past 3 years, it is quite likely that they were cared for by St Bernard’s Hospice.

These numbers have names. These names represent lives. These lives left behind empty beds. These are people. Our people.

In a time where medical expenses are on an increase, our hospitals in need of beds, clinic queues are long and Doctors waiting rooms full, the increase in need for a service like that which Hospice provides, is massive. The unnecessary suffering caused if Hospice had to close its doors, is unthinkable.

We are the only Palliative Care entity in Buffalo City that does not turn a patient who needs palliative care away due to their financial situation. For Profits refer patients to us once the For Profit has exhausted the patient’s medical aid. And yes, we will take this patient on and not turn them away from the care they need, I cannot help but wonder, do people really think it costs us nothing to provide this care?

Hospice is a registered, medical practice. We are registered to provide palliative care. Thus we too, can and are allowed, to claim from Medical Aids for the services that we offer. Our services are not free. It has never been free. We work hard, all the time, to ensure that we can subsidise our services to the community, so that those who have no means (and yes, that is 98% of our patient population) can access their basic human right to quality of life and a pain-free terminal illness.

“These people” needing care, are our businesses’ employees. They are your employee’s family members. Your Gardner’s wife. Your colleague’s father. The Doctor’s mother. The taxi driver’s sister. Their families cross our paths, and your paths, daily, we just don’t know about their hidden suffering.

I,  thus plead with the Buffalo City Community, to please rally around St Bernard’s Hospice URGENTLY, and so help us to be here, to help you and all of those who need our care. We are faced with a R700 000 deficit for this financial year, and our predicted budget shortfall for 2022/2023 will be R1.7 million if nothing changes. I know our whole community is battling financially, but if many people help in a small way, the ripples cause waves.

We unfortunately no longer receive Department of Health funds, as the Department battles to meet their own growing demands. Our own events income have shrunk hugely. Donors are drying up. We really need you to help in any way that you can. Can you donate R100 a month? Can you shop at our Charity Shop? Are you a corporate that can partner with us, so that we can assist you with your B-BBEEE score card, your social economic development spend, or corporate social investment? Or perhaps you can introduce us to an overseas sister company?

 We believe that public private partnerships are the way to go – and we are seeking those in our community. Hospice has years of strong governance, an excellent track record and medical expertise that can be of benefit to private corporates. We simply need one common ground, which is the desire to ensure that palliative care can be accessed by all who need it.

I also want to take the time to thank the Buffalo City community, and our larger donor base, including the Eastern Cape Department of Health, for being an integral part of the success story that has brought Hospice into 2021. Hospice was founded by an incredibly large volunteer base 30 years ago. People who gave freely of their own resources and time. People who believed in making a difference. Many people whom, are not with us today.

Dr Betty Bennett’s legacy, and all of those who have helped her, is alive in 2021. And through continued hard work, sweat and probably a good few tears, I believe, and trust, that her legacy will still be here in another 30 years’ time, ensuring every person who needs palliative care in Buffalo City, can access it.


Please contact me at should you wish to know more, or would like to partner with us in any way.



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