By Rhonda Massad
Dollard resident Teresa Dellar is the executive director and co-founder of the West Island Palliative Care Residence (WIPCR). She is grateful to have had her family’s support since 1998 when she started out on her journey to give dying patients a place to go in their final days on the West Island.
In 1998, Teresa was the oncology social worker at the Lakeshore General Hospital where she found that in the most important time of the patients life they could no longer be cared for at the hospital and the only palliative care available was down town Montreal away from loved ones and the community in which they had lived their lives.
“In order to take on something of this magnitude, the people that surround you need to believe in you, I needed the support of my family first and foremost,” Dellar told The Suburban in an interview. “I could not have done it without my husband Gavin Fernandes and my sons, who were young at the time. My parents were instrumental in assisting me with their care. Today my sons both work at the residence part-time.”
In an impromptu conversation with the residence’s honorary co-founder, then MNA for Neligan, Russell Williams, she told him of her idea to open a hospice for people who were dying. According to Teresa, Russell was instrumental in making things happen. He knew how to work effectively with the government, knew the language.
“By 1999 we were incorporated,” she said, “the community jumped on board right away. NOVA, the CLSC and the hospital became involved and the fundraising started almost immediately. This was truly a community effort.”
Teresa hopes to provide care to as many patients as possible in the future. The average cost for a palliative care bed is $165,000. The provincial government grants a subsidy of $68,000 per bed.
“I had to give up parts of my life to do this but I believe we have been put here to do something good,” she pondered, “I recently read somewhere that we should stop looking for a miracle for ourselves and look to make a miracle for others. There are so many people behind the residence, together we make miracles for those who need us.”
“Today we see patients coming in who are much sicker than they used to be, baby boomers are trying more treatments and studies that are available,” she explained, “Palliative care is not just about cancer it includes all life-limiting diseases like ALS and renal disease. Only 16-30 per cent of Canadians have access to palliative care. NOVA and CLSCs do their best with home care but the budgets keep getting slashed.”
“We have to do something about the provincial debt but health care is taking a big hit — this is not the direction we should be going with an aging population. Our needs are growing every single day.”
The West Island Palliative Care Residence is a non-profit institution, accredited by the Quebec government to provide palliative care health services. Opened in 2002 with nine beds, a 2012 expansion increased its capacity to 23 beds, making it the largest freestanding palliative care residence in Canada.