Twenty shovels turned the sod on the site of the new Cowichan Hospice House yesterday marking the official start of construction on a new facility that is desperately needed.

The Hospice House will provide palliative services to people at the end of their lives and allow them and their families appropriate accommodations for those last days.

The facility will start by providing seven beds and Executive Director of Hospice House Gretchen Hartley said it’s nice to know that these services are going to be a reality.

“We’ve needed this kind of care for such a long time, it’s so exciting to be at this stage,” said Hartley. “We know that better care for people living with advancing illness in their families; we know that it’s on the way now.”

Community organizations and individuals raised $4.6 million dollars for the facility and Minister of Health Adrian Dix said the Cowichan project is a shining example of what is possible at the community level.

“This project, the $10 million dollars raised locally, the support from Island Health, this is a model for other communities across BC,” said Dix.

$5.2 million dollars has been pledged by the Cowichan Valley Regional Health District and the $10 million dollar fundraising target is doable, as only $200,000 dollars are required to hit that mark.

The Hospice House will start by offering seven beds to palliative patients at the end of their lives and their families and Hartley said these rooms provide more than just privacy.

“There will be either a view or a patio going out in the garden and the building itself will include a family kitchen and a beautiful sacred space, where [if] families want to gather a larger group, or there’s an important ceremony that needs to take place, that can happen,” said Hartley.

She added, “There’s also a large family room, which is important to a lot of families, particularly Aboriginal families, where if you want to gather when someone’s dying, there’s isn’t normally space in the existing care facilities.”

Dix said many stakeholders have been instrumental in this project, but the community deserves a tonne of the credit.

“I just wanted to be here today with the community to recognize their achievement,” said Dix. “There’s a lot of work to be done, you’ve got to build the building and everything else, but I think what it reflects here in the Cowichan Valley is an understanding of the value of hospice, [and] the need to support ourselves and families.”

This new facility should be operational by next fall.

Hundreds attend Hospice House sod-turning on Cairnsmore Street.