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Palliative care committee looking at models

Members from region examine other communities' ideas

By: Stu Salkeld

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jan 29, 2014 06:00 am

CARING ABOUT THE FUTURE – Members of the St. Albert Sturgeon Hospice Association (from left) Jill Burt, Pastor John Luth and Bill Spaans, say palliative care planning is underway in the area.
CARING ABOUT THE FUTURE – Members of the St. Albert Sturgeon Hospice Association (from left) Jill Burt, Pastor John Luth and Bill Spaans, say palliative care planning is underway in the area.
STU SALKELD/St. Albert Gazette

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How to get involved

Those interested in the project can contact the steering committee by email at

Planning is well underway for a future with palliative care right here in St. Albert, according to the non-profit committee.

The St. Albert Sturgeon Hospice Association, as it was recently named, is one of the newest non-profit entities in the region. It came about late last year after a group of local pastors, looking at the lack of palliative care in St. Albert, called a community meeting to see what could be done about it. It turns out, the answer was, “A lot.”

After the initial meeting held last fall, a steering committee was formed to look at a number of issues surrounding what could be done to improve palliative care in St. Albert.

“I think things have been going really well,” said committee member Pastor John Luth, noting the steering committee has formed five sub-groups, including incorporation, medical advisory, research, finance and communications. The aim is to eventually make a palliative care facility for St. Albert, Sturgeon and area a reality.

“We made a commitment to each other that we wouldn’t stop until it is,” Luth said.

He said the most important part, a group of excellent local volunteers stepping forward, has occurred. “We’ve been really pleased with the strong backgrounds people have brought to the committee,” said the pastor.

He said Peter Van Bostelen has stepped forward as chair of the steering committee.

The finance committee has benefitted from at least one volunteer with professional finance experience. The finance committee is also looking at what 13 other hospice or palliative care groups have done to be successful. For instance, the West Country Hearth group has been successful, and started as a volunteer committee.

That group has been a great resource, said Bill Spaans, another committee member.

The research committee is benefitting from the help of Covenant Health and AHS. Spaans said the steering committee knows from straw polls that people in this area are concerned about palliative care and want more options locally. However, he said the committee wants solid information to fall back on.

The incorporation committee is seeking the help of a lawyer, as the committee needs to complete its incorporation and get non-profit status.

The communications committee is looking for a volunteer with some marketing experience to come forward. Spaans said internal communications are needed, and the steering committee wants to look at a marketing campaign, but is still looking for a savvy volunteer to help them out.

Also, the committee is looking for volunteers who would be willing to help out with things like fundraising or staffing booths at places like the farmers’ market.

The medical committee will be crucial in the future, when the facility itself is closer to reality, they said.

Looking ahead, Luth said the steering committee will hold another town hall meeting in April to update the community on the project’s status. Research findings will be a major topic of discussion.

Spaans said local politicians including Nolan Crouse, Stephen Khan and Doug Horner have all voiced support for the project.

Committee member Jill Burt pointed out that many see palliative care as something for an aging, senior population but that’s not so. It’s something that affects the entire community, she said.

Her son Landon passed away in 2009 at the age of 22 after battling cancer and spent the last months of his life in palliative care.

“It carries a personal face to it,” she said.

Luth added that palliative care means support for the dying, but also support for their loved ones.

Spaans said the issue of caring compassionately and providing dignity for people who are dying is important to the people of St. Albert and area.

“When you talk to people, it really resonates with people,” he added.


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