October 6 - 12, 2013: Issue 131

 Mona Vale Palliative Care Service Upgrades and Extensions Official Opening of New Facilities

Cutting the ribbon - Eileen Gordon, Hon. Bronwyn Bishop and Hon. Rob Stokes. 

 Mona Vale Palliative Care Service Upgrades and Extensions   Official Opening

Stewart James, General Manager of Health and Hospitals for the HammondCare Foundation, that excellent community minded independent Christian charity specialising in dementia and aged care, palliative care, rehabilitation and older persons' mental health, was MC at the official opening of the Palliative Care Upgrades at Mona Vale Hospital on Thursday 3rd of October. 

The extension provides new, purpose-designed consultation and treatment rooms covering medical, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, social work, counselling and bereavement. In addition, the existing structures have been refurbished, ensuring the entire building is a welcoming and efficient health facility for patients and their families, staff and volunteers. As well a new deck area off the front of this structure will provide an easily accessible outdoors area for patients with a stunning view north to Mona Vale beach.

The facility will be used by patients within the Manly, Warringah and Pittwater areas, so this really is a community care facility built by and for the people within these shires.

The extensions are due in large part to the community’s contributions and the tireless work of Jo-Ann Steeves, President of the Friends of Northern Beaches Palliative Care and the members of this group along with the Mona Vale Hospital Auxiliary, originally led by Cora Adcock and then by the lady Mr James refers to as ‘the steel lady of Pittwater, Eileen Gordon, who have worked selling cup cakes, running stalls and raising funds through Mona Vale Hospital Kiosk for many years to achieve this result. 

On Thursday Stewart James acknowledged all those who have contributed in any way, citing the Rotary Clubs of Pittwater, French’s Forest, Dee Why and Warringah, the waiving of fees by Vicki Taylor, Chief Executive Northern Sydney Local Health District, the contribution of Josephine and Roy Mustaca of Warriewood’s United Cinemas, who announced a further ten thousand dollars donation on Thursday by the United Cinemas and even the work of Dr Stephen Judd, CEO of HammondCare who managed to secure further last minute needed funds to complete the deck area.

Left to right: Dr Stephen Judd, CEO of HammondCare Foundation, Vicki Taylor, Chief Executive Northern Sydney Local Health District and Frank Bazik, General Manager, Northern Sydney Local Health District.

Our local State MP for Pittwater, the Hon. Rob Stokes was also singled out for honouring the promise made by Jim Longley MP and ensuring the funds raised by these community groups and every individual who has contributed were matched dollar for dollar through securing grants so the project could be realised. Mr Stokes has proved once again there is more heart, integrity and intelligence working in him than the average politician. 

Mr Stokes, among the long list of people he cited as contributing much over many years, praised former Mayor of Pittwater, Harvey Rose (right) who has also worked for many years both when at Council with Lindsay Godfrey and as a member of the Save Mona Vale Hospital Committee.

The words of Dr Peter Moore, long term Palliative Care provider in our area while acknowledging a further contribution by the Rotary Club of Pittwater for a Vital Signs Monitor for the new facility, encapsulates what has been achieved: 

“Jo-Ann Steeves, who has been a pilar of this establishment for longer than me, will be the first to acknowledge that we’ve had a lot of trouble over the years getting people to think about Palliative Care, most people don’t like to think about death and dying and that’s understandable. Our ancestors across the pond in England fund around 75% of their palliative care through community and what Jo-Ann and Rotary and all these volunteers have done over the years is like water dropping on a rock, as finally this has got us to a point where people know that we’re here, care that we’re here and are starting to care about the services.

An interesting point about the ceremonial scissors that were used to cut the ribbon?  Fifty-two years ago last Sunday they were presented, by the Ontario Canada government, to Jo-Ann Steeves father. He was District Engineer for a large part of Northern Ontario highways and that day was the opening of a road he had constructed. They were also used by Bronwyn Bishop when she opened the first Palliative Care extension in the mid-nineties.

Just how long this extension and upgrade has taken is outlined through the words of ‘the steel lady of Pittwater’, Eileen Gordon:


Re: Palliative Care Day Hospital at Mona Vale

Background: On 29th.October, 1989 the Palliative Care Service at Mona Vale Hospital  was opened by the Honourable Bronwyn Bishop, Member of Parliament for Mackellar.

The Palliative Care unit was run by the widely-revered Dr John Doran, and offered 24-hour home support. He was soon joined by Jo-Ann Steeves as Volunteer Co-ordinator. This was a start, but a Hospice was needed too. A group of volunteers, led Volunteer Co-ordinator, Jo-Ann Steeves, started fund-raising with a concert in 1992, which raised a remarkable $10,000. Later, the Combined Auxiliaries, headed by Cora Adcock, donated $2,000 and commenced fund-raising in this community with fetes, raffles, concerts, etc.

In October, 1992, The Area Health Board requested funding for a Hospice at Mona Vale Hospital from health authorities. On 25th.February, 1995, Community Services Minister, Mr Jim Longley, announced that a new 12-bed Hospice was to be built at Mona Vale at a cost of $2million, to be completed in August, 1997. 

At this time, the Auxiliaries had raised $115,000. THEN came a change of State Government and Labor refused the Hospice at Mona Vale. The community fund stood at $187,368. All active fund-raising ceased and the Funds remained in a Trust Fund with the Health Department, attracting Interest and also an annual Management Fee.

Over the ensuing years, the delivery of palliative care services has changed, with the focus now being to keep people in their own familiar surroundings by providing the services they need instead of treating them in acute hospitals – better for the patient, better for the budget. The CORE of this is an adequate Palliative Care Day Hospital.

So, on 17th.May, 2007, the Mona Vale Hospital Auxiliary wrote to the General Manager of Mona Vale Hospital requesting that community funds held in Trust Fund 306704 be used to extend “The Cottage” where staff were doing their best to provide services in a facility that was inadequate.

And so began the Paper Trail from Auxiliary to Health Dept, Attorney General, Crown Solicitor and finally the Commissioner for Dormant Funds who ruled on 1st. Sept.2010 that the funds be released for the purpose of extending the Palliative Care building. A Trust was established with four Trustees and on 17th.January,2011 these community funds were finally released to the Palliative Care Trust Fund - $244,767. A process of a frustrating 3yrs 8months.

In 2011 the Palliative Care Trust Fund had detailed plans for extensions to the Palliative Care Unit which might serve this community well then and in the foreseeable future. These detailed plans had been supplied pro-bono by a well respected local architect, Emile Jansen, and approved by the Hospital Engineering Department.

With the extraordinary delays in releasing these community funds, building costs had escalated and we found that we could only fund the new administration section with adequate offices for doctors and nurses and the new physiotherapy unit, leaving the refit of treatment rooms, kitchen, bathroom, common room and reception plus the new physiotherapy deck and ramp exercise areas unfunded.

We really did not want a HALF-BAKED facility and so the Mona Vale Hospital Auxiliary asked the Health Department, NOT for the 1995 $2million, but to match the funding of this community with $244,767. After all, this was a Health Department Facility on Health Department Land. With the support of Rob Stokes, Member for Pittwater, the State Government agreed to honour the promise of Mr Jim Longley in 1995 to match Auxiliary funds and $240,000 was added to the fund, MVH Kiosk donated $40,000, Rotary Clubs of Pittwater, Terrey Hills and DeeWhy/Warringah added their support with combined donations of over $70,000, and Professor Vicki Taylor, CE of NSL agreed to waive the $60,000 fee that would normally be payable to Capital Works for overall supervision of the building project.

While all this was going on, Friends of Northern Beaches Palliative Care, led by President, Jo-Ann Steeves, were busy organizing the refurbishment of the original Cottage – new carpet, painting etc with the help of a State Government grant.

The new building was going ahead, but disappointingly, we had exhausted all funds and had no means of building the $60,000 verandah which was a major feature and joined the two buildings. Then a miracle happened in the form of the Shirley Great Foundation, the Auxiliary found another $15,000 and the General Manager obtained $10,000. So we were able to build the beautiful verandah.

So, with all this help, this community has been able to provide a $660,000 purpose-built facility for the provision of Palliative Care Services.

Our thanks go to all the people who have supported this project and to the Trustees.

Eileen Gordon, 2nd.October, 2013.

And now, Pittwater, Warringah and Manly, we need a Hospice .... 

Part of the new verandah area and new extension of Palliative Care Services at Mona Vale Hospital. 

 Eleanor Swanston, Eileen Gordon (MVHA ladies), Stewart James (HammondCare) and Margaret Brown (Operations/Mngr. DON Nursing at Mona Vale Palliative Care Services - HammondCare).

Jo-Ann and David Steeves of Friends of Northern Beaches Palliative Care with Meryl Godfrey, Rotary Club of Pittwater member.

Dawn Hooper, CNC Palliative Care with NSW Health explained how this new Vital Signs Monitor doated by the Rotary Club of Pittwater works.

 Roger Digby, current President of the Rotary Club of Pittwater with Julian Martin, Head of Fundraising for the HammondCare Foundation.

Gail Carew, project manager for the Rotary Club of Pittwater's Palliative Care fundraising activities, Bruce Lakin of the Rotary Club of Pittwater, Roy Mustaca of Warriewood United Cinemas and Dianne Elliott - all tirless workers for Mona Vale Palliative Care Services upgrades.

 Dennise Adcock, representing her mother Cora Adcock with Dr .Peter Moore.

Rotary Club of Pittwater members at Thursday's Official Opening. 

Report and photos by A J Guesdon.