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Durham hospice build proceeds despite COVID-19

Angela Gismondi
Durham hospice build proceeds despite COVID-19
OAK RIDGES HOSPICE OF DURHAM — Oak Ridges Hospice of Durham is a 13,000 square foot end-of-life facility being constructed on a 4.6 acre site on Scugog Street in Port Perry, Ont. The general contractor for the project is J.J. McGuire and the architect is Barry Bryan Associates. Despite some challenges with COVID-19, the project is expected to be complete by November with the opening anticipated for 2021. The facility will be called the Morgan and Sidhu House in honour of two benefactors.

Although requirements imposed on construction sites in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down construction of the Oak Ridges Hospice of Durham in Port Perry, Ont., the project manager is still hoping to have the project completed by the end of the year.

“We had some slowdowns and a bit of stoppage at one point due to some of the contractors and the limitations placed by the government, but then we resumed because we were deemed essential,” said Trish Thompson, project manager of construction for the hospice, adding public health recommendations for keeping workers safe were implemented onsite, including physical distancing and additional onsite hygiene stations. “We’re hoping that we’ll be able to finish by this November.”

The hospice is located on a 4.6-acre site on Scugog Street, which formerly housed a school. The land was purchased from the school board and construction began in November 2019. The facility is expected to open in 2021.

The residential building is owned by Oak Ridges Hospice of Durham Ltd.

It was the brainchild of long-time Port Perry physician Dr. Steve Russell, who saw there was a need in the community to build a place where people facing end-of-life can be supported on their final journey, surrounded by compassionate care, indicates a release.

“It was his dream to establish a hospice in his region and in his hometown,” said Thompson. “It’s for terminally ill individuals who cannot be supported at home any longer either because they require too much care or the family does not have the supports in place. They do not require hospital care, they need a residential home environment where they can go to live out their last final days.”

The house name for the hospice is the Morgan and Sidhu House in honour of two benefactors — Kevin Morgan and David Sidhu — who provided $2 million in financial support to get the project started.

The hospice is a one level, almost 13,000 square foot facility.

J.J. McGuire is the general contractor on the construction management project and the architect is Barry Bryan Associates. In June wall panels were installed and roof framing and trusses went up, followed by the installation of walls and doors. Site grading and earth moving also began.

The hospice will consist of 10 residential rooms, each with its own washroom. Five of the rooms will have an outdoor patio and will be accessible by bed to accommodate individuals who want to spend their final moments outside.

The exterior will be siding with stonework on the bottom and timber frames over the main entrance.

“We’re trying to achieve a more country, cottage-like appearance because this is supposed to be like somebody’s home,” said Thompson. “It’s supposed to be very welcoming and friendly. When you go to a hospital, you are there to get better typically, it’s a place where you are to be treated and cured. A hospice welcomes death.”

It also includes a kitchen and a living room and families are welcome to come in and assist.

“We’re going to have sleeping capabilities in the rooms so that a family member can stay with the individual,” said Thompson.

While the government, through the Ministry of Health, covers a certain percentage towards operational costs, direct nursing care costs and part of the building, much of the financial supports depends on charitable donations.

“We have had to cancel all of our major fundraisers because of gathering restrictions so it’s been very detrimental and we’re not alone,” said Thompson. “We have an organizational group where we meet with other hospices across our region and across our province. We are all struggling with the same issues like any charitable organization. It’s been a real challenge.”

Due to the financial impacts businesses and individuals are facing due to the pandemic, donations have slowed and the hospice has not yet been able to reach its $2 million goal.

“COVID-19 has affected charities’ fundraising across Canada and, here in Durham, our capital campaign is no exception,” said Russell in a statement. “If our $2 million fundraising goal is not reached, construction may pause later this summer. Our board is putting together a strategy to overcome these obstacles in the face of these significant social headwinds.”

According to a June newsletter, Oak Ridges Hospice is making appeals to all levels of government for assistance, given three factors: providing compassionate care for people who are facing their final days; creating new, permanent jobs in Durham Region; and being an essential component of the health system infrastructure in this area.

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