North Haven Hospice’s Helen Blaxland and Lyn Cheyne. Photo / Tania Whyte
A funding shortfall means North Haven Hospice is closer to making tough decisions about which of its services that support terminally-ill Northlanders may be axed.
Currently, the community charity, which is partly Government-funded, needs to raise around $8000 a day to keep being able to provide free specialist care and support to people in Whangārei and southeast of Kaipara. At any one time, they are looking after 170 people in the community.
North Haven Hospice director of marketing and fundraising Lyn Cheyne says the Government funding they receive isn’t enough to cover the costs of its clinical operations and staff.
On top of this deficit, they must also pay the costs for fundraising, running their charity shops and wages for maintenance, kitchen and administrative staff.
North Haven Hospice CEO Helen Blaxland indicated the hospice is facing no easy decisions about what services they can continue to offer.
Contracts with Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand and other Government ministries contribute 55 per cent of the funding North Haven Hospice needs to care for its patients and to provide an in-patient unit for the whole of Northland.
The free holistic service ranges from medical and nursing care to bereavement support.
“The funding the Government provides is insufficient to deliver all that,” Cheyne said.
“Even if we were to reduce back to the very basic – which is not what we are about, because we are about holistic care – we would still not even cover our medical and clinical staff.”
Blaxland said funds prevent the hospice from introducing a needed three to four more nurses into the community, as well as another doctor.
“Less staff means less services. Fewer volunteers potentially mean more staff and higher costs, or fewer services and fewer opportunities for fundraising.
“Less fundraising means less donations which means less services [sic]. Less family and bereavement support means more difficulties for everyone with a loved one with less than a year to live,” Blaxland said.
“Do we only look after those with less than a year to live? Or do we change it to those who likely only have three months left?”
Blaxland said “significant stability” would be provided if the Government covered their clinical costs, as those make up 70 to 75 per cent of their expenditures.
Hospice is having to dip into an Endowment Trust, established a number of years ago to provide additional financial support when funding is short. The trust would allow North Haven Hospice to operate for two to three years if all funding sources ended.
But the use of the trust is affecting their long-term plan to build it up.
While many are not aware of the breadth of the hospice’s services, those who have experienced their support forever hold them in the highest regard.
A patient’s family member said the hospice provided them with the strength they needed to navigate a difficult journey.
“The dedication and attentiveness of the nurses was truly remarkable. They were there at every peep of the buzzer, responding promptly to needs and ensuring comfort.
“Their transparent communication provided us with the reassurance we needed during such a challenging time.”
The charity’s financial troubles make planning for the future difficult.
“We put in fundraising targets and hope to gain gifts in wills, but we have no idea what amounts, when they may come in, and if we get any. We are very vulnerable to the generosity of the community,” Cheyne said.
The suspension of cheque payments in May 2021 dropped their newsletter donations by 60 per cent.
The North Haven Hospice Shop nets about a quarter of what the service needs to fundraise each year, but the shop’s ability to raise funds has been impacted by a reduction in volunteers.
Around 200 people, whose average age is 70, currently volunteer in the store, and before the pandemic, there were more than 250 volunteers.
The drop in numbers means the Whangārei shop is closed on a Sunday.
Despite the struggles, Blaxland said she would hate to be fully Government-funded because there is something about a community actively contributing to palliative care.
Charging for their services would never be an option, she said.
“When you can be born free, you should be able to die free.”
Support North Haven Hospice by making a donation here.