Can you tell us about the Journey of St Bernard’s Hospice to now Celebrating 26 years?
Dr Betty Bennett formed part of the oncology team which came to East London regularly in the late 1980’s. The team worked closely with the radiology practice of Bloch & Navid, and as fairy tales go Dr Betty and Dr Ben Navid fell in love and were married. Dr Ben Navid, who had helped so many cancer patients, sadly suffered the same fate and died after many happy and fruitful years in East London. His death birthed a dream in his wife, Dr Betty.
In 1991, Dr Betty Bennett set about realizing her dream of establishing a Hospice in East London and today, her legacy stands proud as we celebrate our 26th Birthday.
Much work has been done over the years to ensure we subscribe to international best practices and thus our affiliation with the Hospice Association of South Africa is very important to us. As a not for profit organisation, we are extremely thankful for the years of support that has enabled us to affirm the hidden lives of people diagnosed with life-threatening or life-limiting diseases.
What challenges does St Bernard’s experience?
One of the biggest challenges that St Bernard’s Hospice faces is access to funding in order to implement our Mission and Vision of providing palliative care for anyone in need in the East London Community. The traditional, international funding NGOs like ourselves relied on in the past, is no longer available and thus immense pressure has been placed on us to ensure we can continue raising sufficient funds for the services we provide.
Other challenges include stigma attached to “Hospices” where people automatically only associate our work with death, which is not always the case. Thus some ignorance of what care and support Hospices actually provide for patients can be a stumbling block, however we are passionate about ensuring that we help turn this situation around!
One real fact here unfortunately is that unless one has a family member affected by a life-limiting disease, the majority of people tend to turn a blind eye to the plight of Hospices in general.
When and how was St Bernard’s East London established?
As mentioned, Dr Betty Bennett, founder of St Bernard’s hospice had a dream in the 1980’s which became a reality in 1991.
Despite the loss of our beloved In-Patient unit around 2013 due to a major shift in the funding landscape, St Bernard’s Hospice continues to provide specialised, quality, home based palliative care to anyone in the East London Community who may need it. Disease does not discriminate, and neither do we.
How much was raised through the 26th Anniversary Cocktail Evening and where will the proceeds go to?
In proud partnership with Kempston Group, our generous sponsor of this event, raised over R40 000 towards the care and support of our patients suffering with life debilitating illnesses.
Briefly tell us what does St Bernard’s specialise in and what kind of work are you involved in?
We specialize in Palliative Care. Home Based Palliative Care is an internationally recognized healthcare option which specializes in the relief of pain, symptoms, stress and emotional discomfort associated with any serious extended illness. It is a holistic practice which does not only look after the patient ensuring quality of life, but incorporates the journey they walk with their family as well.
What would you say motivated you and your staff to join/work for St Bernard’s?
The motivation of the majority of staff after discussion is the passion to help people whom are less fortunate that ourselves. Also some staff members have been affected by Cancer or other life-limiting diseases and have won the battle and this motivates them to encourage and help where possible.
Which other organisations is St Bernard’s affiliated with, if any?
We are affiliated to Hospice Palliative Care Association, who helps us to bench mark our care and practices to ensure it remains of a worthy standard. We are affiliated with Border Kei Chamber of Commerce and Business Network International, as we appreciate the support the East London community provides us which enables us to continue our work. The Department of Health is another key stakeholder, as we support their vision for a HIV and TB free generation, both potentially life-threatening diseases. We have quite a few other affiliations, as a client’s needs are often so big, we cannot cater to all of it. However, having the right partners in place, ensure we can through referrals, be assured that our clients will access all they need.