'Pioneering' new hospice gets official opening
THE new £13 million Northern Ireland Hospice building in Belfast was officially opened yesterday by the Countess of Wessex.
Staff and patients met the royal visitor who was given a tour of the first dementia-friendly facility in Britain and Ireland.
Located on Somerton Road, the new-build opened it doors to patients last May and provides 18 private en-suite bedrooms, private gardens, rehabilitation suites, a community nursing hub and a dedicated education centre, making it a world leader in palliative care.
Caring for 3,500 adults with life-limiting illnesses and their families annually, the hospice costs £6m a year to keep it up and running and more than half of this figure must be raised through voluntary donations.
Such was the demand for its services before Christmas that terminally ill patients were being placed on waiting lists for beds.
Heather Weir, who is a former hospice nurse and is the charity's chief executive, said the new building had enabled them to "expand their reach" and provide care to patients with dementia, heart disease, respiratory and brain-related illnesses.
"It gives us all a great sense of achievement and pride that the vision of our new hospice is now a reality. This is a tremendous recognition of the combined efforts of our community, our support groups, volunteers and staff that collectively have created a very special environment for local people when they need us most. It's a celebration for everyone in Northern Ireland," she said.