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Take a tour around Mayo’s new hospice

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EYE CATCHING Mary Nash, CEO of Galway Hospice, Minister Michael Ring and Martina Jennings, CEO of Mayo Roscommon Hospice, pictured in one of the corridors of the new hospice building in Castlebar adorned by photographs by renowned photographer Michael McLaughlin of some well known Mayo landscapes.

New €9 million hospice building in Castlebar opens later this year

Edwin McGreal

As you are brought through the new state-of-the-art hospice building in Castlebar, you cannot but be impressed.  Costing €9.2 million – some €2 million under budget – it will open later this year. The final touches are being done when Mayo Roscommon Hospice CEO Martina Jennings gives The Mayo News a guided tour.
Ms Jennings has also doubled as the project manager of the development – “We couldn’t afford to hire a professional one,” she tells us – and there’s no doubt she has put her heart and soul into it.
The end product is a top-class medical facility that doesn’t look or feel like a medical facility at all. Everything is geared towards making a stay in the hospice as homely as possible for people with end-of-life conditions.
“It is the place nobody wants to come to, but if you’re on that journey, it is where you want to be, and it is great to have this hospice in Mayo,” Jennings tells The Mayo News.
Built entirely with money donated and fundraised, the building has 14 bedrooms for inpatients, as well as a separate day-care area.
Use of space and natural light is very apparent everywhere you go.
“The whole idea was to bring the outside in and the inside out. The thing people miss most at end of life is nature. There is natural light everywhere,” Jennings said.
“The bedrooms are made to be as homely as possible. We want this to be a person’s home as long as they are here, so if they want to bring their dog here they can, their own bedclothes and so on,” she added.
In the bedrooms all medical panels are hidden from view as you enter the room, so it feels less like a hospital setting. Each room has a private patio with doors wide enough for the bed to be wheeled out.
Planting for the patios was performed by the Clew Bay Garden Trail Group, with an emphasis on smell and colour.  
In the course of researching options for the hospice, Ms Jennings visited five hospices in Ireland. In one, she was told of one woman who wanted to feel rain on her face one last time. She was brought outside and passed away an hour later. It planted a seed in her mind, and the result is the hospice bedrooms with easy access to the outdoors.
There are recliners in each bedroom for family members, who can sleep there too if they wish. They can also sleep in one of the several families rooms in the inpatient area, while upstairs there is a two-bedroom family apartment.
Also in the inpatient area is the main courtyard where, again, there is an emphasis on nature. The corner stone of the courtyard is a large pod that has been paid for from the David Gavin Emergency Fund, in memory of the young Breaffy footballer, David Gavin, who drowned in Canada in 2017. The fund paid for three pods in total.
“The pods provide a sanctuary for people who are with family members who are in the hospice, [enabling them to be] outside without leaving the grounds.
“People can become emotional when they are there, seeing the pods and knowing they are in David’s memory. It is the loveliest way to remember him,” said Martina Jennings.

Art and photography
Every bedroom has a beautiful painting by the late Mayo artist Helga Kaffke, while stunning large photographs by Westport photographer Michael McLaughlin adorn the walls in the corridors of the building. The photos are all landscape shots from different areas of Mayo.
“The thinking behind the pictures is that if people are in the depths of despair, we want them to get lost in the photos. They suck the viewer in,” said Martina Jennings.
The inpatient area also contains an in-house pharmacy, a tea station for family, assisted bathrooms and a smoking room, while two of the 14 bedrooms are bariatric rooms, for larger patients.
Greeting people as they arrive at the building – located just off the town’s ring road, close to St Anthony’s Special School – is an impressive sculpture by Derry sculptor Maurice Harron. It denotes four people in a circle and symbolises family.
A warm reception area greets you as you enter the hospice building, while just off reception is a fully-staffed canteen.
“There are no strict meal times, so people can have breakfast at 8am or 6pm. We provide a drinks round every night, so if someone wants a glass of wine, they can have it,” said Jennings.  
Across the hall is a teenage room, which the remaining monies from the David Gavin Emergency Fund will help to equip. A eye-catching tile mural created by Castlebar Foróige is on display in this room.
“Teenagers with parents or grandparents here can come in here and have their own space and their parents know that they are still in the building, right across from the canteen,” said Ms Jennings.

Day care
The day care area of the building contains the main day care room, a counselling room, an art room, an aromatherapy room, an occupational therapy room, a physio room and a hairdressing room. Horticultural therapy will take place in the day care courtyard. There is also a child therapy room for children who have family members in the hospice, and a volunteer room.
“We are hugely dependent on volunteers. It is only four hours a week. We’re always appealing for volunteers,” added Jennings.
Upstairs, along with the family apartment, are staff areas.
Formerly HSE owned land – locals might recall the area once being a pitch-and-putt course – the building and land is now owned by Mayo Roscommon Hospice. Galway Hospice will maintain clinical and operational governance. Running costs will be paid by the HSE with shortfalls covered by the Mayo Roscommon Hospice. “We’re delighted to be in partnership with Galway Hospice,” said Jennings.
Mayo Roscommon Hospice will have its fundraising office in Castlebar while maintaining a head office in Knock.
Mountain View Securities in Castlebar were the main contractors for the build. Martina Jennings also expressed her thanks to Mayo County Council for its support.
“All of us in the Mayo Roscommon Hospice Foundation are so proud of this building,” she said.
And well they might be.

MORE A video tour of the facility will be available on The Mayo News Facebook page from Friday, July 26.

Tours
Mayo Roscommon Hospice is hosting tours of its new facility located off Humbert Way in Castlebar every hour from 12 noon until 8pm every day this week.