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A Matter of Life or Death


By David Pine
Posted: 23 July 2014

One of Wellington’s best known and respected institutions can trace its origins to a Catholic Order of Nuns called the Little Company of Mary. This order established a branch in Wellington in the 1930’s, creating Calvary Hospital (now Wakefield Hospital) through which they ministered to the vulnerable, the elderly, the poor, and the dying. They decided to support the establishment of a separate facility to cater for the terminally ill and their families. One Nun in particular gave generously of her time and arranged for a substantial grant to create the new facility. The year was 1939 and the Nun’s name was Mary Potter.

Ria EarpSpeaking at Plimmerton Rotary on 8th July, the CEO of Mary Potter Hospice, Ria Earp, spoke with great compassion about the extraordinarily important work that the Hospice carried out every day. “We touch so many lives, from Wellington City, through the Porirua Region to the Kapiti Coast. We have just 18 beds at the hospice in Newtown, but every day of the year we supply care and support to an average of 250 people. This is up from a daily average of 150 people eight years ago.”

“To manage this workload we coordinate the efforts of a large number of different specialists. Besides our own doctors and nurses we work in with occupational therapists, pharmacists, physiotherapists, massage therapists, spiritual carers, plus several other types of specialists, as well as our many willing volunteers. We have strong partnerships with other health related entities such as Wellington Free Ambulance, training and education providers, as well as GP’s and their nurses.”

Ms Earp noted the dramatically increasing number of people over the age of 85. “This age group will expand rapidly in the future, placing more and more pressure on our limited resources.”

The annual budget for Mary Potter Hospice was currently running at about $10 million. “We receive about half of this from Central Government. Their grant used to cover 70% of our costs but the grant has remained static while demand for our services has risen, and so now the grant covers only about 50%.”

Other sources of revenue included the eight Mary Potter stores that had been set up in the region. The concept was that people could donate household goods to these stores, which then sold the goods to the public. In the last financial year the stores had generated net profit of about $1.3 million. The balance of funds that were needed to run Mary Potter came from donations from organisations and individuals.

Chris and Ria EarpIn thanking Plimmerton Rotary most sincerely for its generous donation of $7500, raised at the club’s recent Charity Breakfast with the Prime Minister, Ms Earp noted that the Hospice would in future be reaching out to many other service clubs and similar organisations as a way of seeking the funds they so desperately needed.

On a sobering note, Ms Earp invited her audience to have a serious think, with their families, about the sort of care they themselves would like to have if they became terminally ill. It was always a good idea for everyone to have something planned in advance should this situation arise.                     

A Matter of Life or Death

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