Agnes C Meeker

After seven years of providing Home Palliative Care on the island of Antigua, the St John Hospice finally achieved its goal of having a home of its own making it the first Hospice in the Eastern Caribbean.     The actual building was given to us by the Government of Antigua & Barbuda but was derelict for 2-3 years and an army of termites had taken up residence.    All the wood from floor to ceiling had to be removed, and the building and surrounding ground had to be treated.    Actual renovations took over a year to complete at a cost of $750,000EC (approximately 167,000 pounds) all of which was raised through International grants and local fund raisers.   The community rallied in surprising numbers, painting, refurbishing beds, upholstering chairs, refitting sheets and a host of other thankless tasks. 

We have started a garden which is a work in progress and have plans to set up a small kitchen garden with fruit trees, vegetables and herbs, so that we might supplement our kitchen with these items.    In the mean time donations from market gardens, fishermen and local businesses are helping to ease our daily food expenses.    Part of the property has been fenced to include a gazebo with a walkway around a proposed water feature, our washing lines, generator and tool shed.   The hibiscus and bougainvillea are already beginning to bloom and provide an area of respite in the fresh air. 

We opened on January 1st, 2012, and provide nine hospice beds, five in a semi private ward and four private rooms. 
The facility includes a Sanctuary for private meetings with family members, councilors or clergy, a beautifully spacious day room off which are two private respite rooms.    The day room opens directly on to the garden. 
The building is perfectly situated a top a breezy hill in the grounds of the old Holberton Hospital where we enjoy the best of the trade winds within walking distance of the city of St John’s.     

Hospice is a new concept here in Antigua but the word is getting around after a soft opening and we feel we are now established and accepted within the community.     The positive feedback we have received from family members has been extremely gratifying.    Despite opening the hospice we continue to offer home palliative care, the cost of which is covered by our Hospice Thrift Shops. 

We have gathered together a dedicated group of staff and volunteers who ensure that our patients get the best possible care available in Antigua.   Patients pay a minimal contribution but no one is ever refused care for lack of funds.   However, those that do pay barely generate enough to cover 15% of our daily operating costs.   Operational costs for 2012 are ensured but the cost of continued operations will remain a constant challenge.   This is estimated to be approximately $400,000 (89,000 pounds) or more, a year.       
(Photographs attached sep. page) 

  • St John's, Antigua & Barbuda
  • Written by: Agnes C Meeker
  • Thursday, 22 March 2012

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