Supporting Our Own.

A Chat with Gail Sykes of Helderberg Hospice

March 2020

Hyundai Somerset West supports the Helderberg Hospice and has for many years. As an employee of the dealership, I wanted to find out more and have a personal experience chatting to Gail Sykes, CEO of Helderberg Hospice, to find out a bit more about their service and have a few key questions answered:

 

What is the Helderberg Hospice?

 

What do they actually do there?

 

How well managed is it, and is it worth our support?

 

The answer to the last question is yes, they are brilliant and well worth every effort and cent that can be given to them.

 

Helderberg Hospice must be one of the most well-managed and transparent Non Profit Organizations in the country, and certainly in the Helderberg. But it’s what they do that really makes them stand out, and the mountain of odds Gail and her crew must overcome every single year.

But first, what is the Helderberg Hospice?

Hyundai Somerset West supports the Helderberg Hospice and has for many years. As an employee of the dealership, I wanted to find out more and have a personal experience chatting to Gail Sykes, CEO of Helderberg Hospice, to find out a bit more about their service and have a few key questions answered:

 

What is the Helderberg Hospice?

 

What do they actually do there?

 

How well managed is it, and is it worth our support?

 

The answer to the last question is yes, they are brilliant and well worth every effort and cent that can be given to them.

 

Helderberg Hospice must be one of the most well-managed and transparent Non Profit Organizations in the country, and certainly in the Helderberg. But it’s what they do that really makes them stand out, and the mountain of odds Gail and her crew must overcome every single year.

But first, what is the Helderberg Hospice?

Included in the permanent staff are 6 full-time Specialised Palliative Care Homecare Sisters who are constantly on the road visiting patients in their homes. They are not there to provide full-time care services, but rather to administer medical assistance, as well as support and advice to their patients (many of whom become reliant on them) to manage pain and symptoms.

 

There are approximately 35 patients to each Sister at time of writing! This of course puts massive strain on the nursing staff, especially over weekends when a single Sister is always on call. However, despite this the care remains always patient-centred and Sisters spend as much time as is required with each patient to the utmost of their abilities.

 

Beyond their work on the road, as mentioned, the Helderberg Hospice operates a Support Centre with a 10-bed unit, 4 permanent staff per shift trained in Palliative Care as well as a Nursing Services Manager. A myth is that this is only where patients spend the last days of their lives. This is NOT the case! Nor is it the Centre’s purpose: the facility provides a closely monitored, professional, comfortable environment for patients that are in need of a high level of specialised care to be stabilized and their medical regimens brought in line to ensure pain control and symptom management.  More than half of admitted patients are discharged – most after 3 to 5 days and none are booked in longer than 14 days. Visiting hours are completely unrestricted and patients are absolutely front and centre here: if they require a special pet at their bedside, special bedding or comforting object(s), nothing is a problem. The priority is always the comfort and well-being of the patient.

 

Meals are prepared at Vergelegen Mediclinic and are collected and dropped off by volunteers to be given to those admitted to the Support Centre.

Patients are absolutely front and centre here: if they require a special pet at their bedside, special bedding or comforting object(s), nothing is a problem. The priority is always the comfort and well-being of the patient.

How is Helderberg Hospice funded?

Incredibly, very little funding comes from the government (about 9% of the Hospice’s total annual budget of R14m at time of writing). As a result, Gail and her team are constantly researching ways to get funding in, and rely heavily on support from the community to keep them afloat and continue helping the needy around them. They run several Helderberg Hospice shops:

 

Two in Somerset West at 139 Main Road – Telephone 021 851 9626

 

One in the Strand in the Panorama Building - Telephone 021 854 3121

 

The shops carry a variety of goods, all generously donated by the community, and they range from clothing to furniture to, bric-a-brac, jewellery, ornaments and glassware. The proceeds from these shops comprise approximately 33% of the total budget! A small amount of support is received each year through a collaboration with an American hospice in Cleveland, Ohio while annual fundraisers such as Somerset West Golf Day (19 March, see more here), Cycle For Life (30 May, check it out here), Open Gardens Festival (10-11 October, have a look at it here), Tree of Lights (27 November, see more here) and Carols by Candlelight at Vergelegen Estate (9 December, have a look here for info), all lend a helping hand towards paying the mountain of costs associated with such a high-level of care.

 

But additional support is always needed. Even with all this, each year is a massive challenge that requires the help of as many in the community as possible. Gail Sykes and her team are determined to carry on and do their best to ensure that every cent entrusted to Helderberg Hospice is spent for the purpose of keeping their doors open to offer the best quality of life possible to each and every patient in their care - exactly the opposite to what South Africans read and hear about almost every day with regards to the depths of corruption that grip almost every level of governance. Helderberg Hospice is extremely transparent in their financial management and outstanding in their diligence, organization and reputation within their community. No one is perfect, but this organization operates above reproach and is a model of how any business (let alone an NPO) should run.

 

For further information about the Helderberg Hospice, the stories of some of their patients, how you can support them and much more, please visit their website here.

Helderberg Hospice is extremely transparent in their financial management and outstanding in their diligence, organization and reputation within their community. No one is perfect, but this organization operates above reproach and is a model of how any business (let alone an NPO) should run.

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