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Founded in 1992, Dover Park Hospice is Singapore’s first purpose-built hospice that provides safe, holistic and quality palliative care for the terminally-ill.

As a secular, non-profit organisation, it relies on philanthropic donations to help subsidise costs for those in the hospice, home care and day care. Beyond offering palliative care that spans medical, emotional, social and spiritual support for patients and their loved ones, Dover Park Hospice also conducts training for aspiring and established health professionals, staff, volunteers and caregivers.

A new premise at Integrated Care Hub, HealthCity Novena is currently in the works to meet an increased demand in palliative care. Slated to open in the first quarter of 2023, the new Dover Park Hospice will have a bigger inpatient capacity and more home and day care services for its patients.

On October 15, Dover Park Hospice will be hosting its second virtual charity dinner with the hope to raise $800,000 to support its upcoming expansion. Ahead of the annual fundraiser, we speak to Dr Karen Soh, co-chairman of Dover Park Hospice’s fundraising committee on the event, her role at the NPO, and the future of palliative care in Singapore.

How has the pandemic changed palliative care at Dover Park Hospice?
As the healthcare system becomes strained due to the pandemic in early 2020, providing safe and effective end-of-life care became especially crucial yet more difficult.

Despite unprecedented challenges, the essence of our care remains the same. We continue to provide utmost care and support to our patients and caregivers using different creative ways.

With the restrictions and uncertainty of the pandemic in 2020, we have to quickly adapt and act swiftly to the evolving Covid-19 situation to align with the latest safe measurement measures to keep our patients and staff safe. As the profile of the patients we serve are more vulnerable and at the end-of-life stage, we have to balance safety with compassion so as to uphold their safety and wellbeing while ensuring normalcy at the same time.

Our clinical team is leveraging technology in our day-to-day delivery of care to maintain normalcy for our patients. For example, we helped patients and families to connect with one another through the use of video calls during the Circuit Breaker with tighter visitor policy; we continued rehabilitation therapy by bringing the “garden”, such as small potted plants, tools etc, to the patient’s bed; our social work and psychosocial services team and rehabilitation team came together to celebrate different festivities such as the Lunar New Year, Christmas, National Day, so as to enliven the hospice. In countering the challenges of having in-person therapy sessions with our patients, we’ve adopted the use of teletherapy, conducting music therapy and pet-assisted therapy sessions online with our inpatients and home care patients.

The pandemic has accelerated the use of technology to ensure continuity of care especially for our home care patients. Our Home Care team is one of the first to implement hybrid models of care combining in-person and teleconsultations to continue to support patients at home. Being digitally connected will also enable innovative community partnerships to further enhance care for our patients.

This year, the Virtual Sunflower Charity Dinner aims to raise $800,000. Can you share more about where these funds will go into?
The funds raised will go towards various programmes, both existing and new. It will help subsidise the costs of providing hospice care for our patients, especially the low-income families at different trajectories of their illnesses, as well as enhance our care to serve more complex and diverse groups of patients, such as people with end-stage renal failure, lung diseases and other non-cancer conditions. The donations will also contribute to serving the increased demand for palliative care as we move to our new premise at Integrated Care Hub, HealthCity Novena.

How did the theme “Modern Peranakan” come about?
This is the second year that Dover Park Hospice is organising a virtual charity dinner where we want to offer our guests a special, gastronomical experience. We decided on Peranakan cuisine as it was known for its rich cultural heritage and for being highly flavourful.  The theme “Modern Peranakan” signifies the growth and expansion of the Hospice to serve more patients as we leverage technology with our impending move to the new Integrated Care Hub in 2023.

Tell us more about Dover Park Hospice’s new home.
The move is in line with the national directive to increase capacity and provision of palliative care with an ageing population. It will be a big milestone for us as Dover Park Hospice is Singapore’s first purpose-built hospice in 1992.

The new premise will double our inpatient capacity from 50 to 100 beds and boost many more single rooms, enabling a “home away from home” so that our patients can enjoy more comfort and rest. It will also boost more sophisticated clinical infrastructure including telemedicine monitoring and care facilities.

Are there any exciting news at Dover Park Hospice?
As a progressive and forward-looking hospice, we have to constantly grow and expand our services and care in tandem with the changing demographics and conditions of the ageing population.

In January this year, together with two other community partners, we have started a pilot programme that aims to provide a rehabilitation space for patients with limiting lung conditions so as to empower them with the needed skills, abilities, tools and knowledge to reintegrate into the community and to manage their breathlessness and symptoms. We have seen progress in some of the patients and hope the programme will grow to benefit more patients.

We’ve also launched our new donation microsite to make online contributions easier and to keep donors informed of the various campaigns in which they can support. Moving forward, we’ll be sharing more untold or inspiring stories of our patients on how they overcome their adversities. We hope to have more people supporting our cause with more awareness of the work we do.

What drives you in your role at Dover Park Hospice?
I was introduced to Dover Park Hospice by two of my best friends and women whom I admire, Dr June Goh and Ms Joy Tan.

I joined the Fundraising Committee in 2012. It was quite a personal decision. I always admire my peers who work in palliative care as it takes a special heart and patience to walk alongside the patients on their last mile.

Together with Dr Kwa Chong Teck as the Co-Chairman of the Fundraising Committee, we look at donor stewardship and various avenues to ramp up our fundraising efforts. The pandemic last year had hampered many of our fundraising events and activities but with a “can-do” attitude, we pressed on by shifting our annual Sunflower Gala Dinner which had been traditionally held in hotels, to a virtual dining experience for our guests.

During the past years as the Council Member of Dover Park Hospice and Co-Chairman of the Fundraising Committee, I have learnt so much from the dedication of the team and Council of Dover Park Hospice where they gave their best not just in providing basic care for the patients and their loved ones but never fail to go the extra mile when needed. I have been personally touched in my interactions with the inpatients. I remember on one occasion when I visited the inpatients with my staff from Prive Clinic, all of us were moved to tears by the stories and fortitude of the patients and their families.

I believe that regardless of how or what one has done, a dignified and compassionate approach to end-of-life care is a human right and Dover Park Hospice serves this purpose regardless of race, language, religion and background.

(Main and featured image: Prestige Singapore; Photography: Lavender Chang | Art Direction: Audrey Chan | Hair: Ann Lin/Athens Salon | Make-up: Sophia Chia/Makeup Works)

To further support Dover Park Hospice, visit its donation microsite.

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