LESS than 16 months after it was launched, the appeal to build a dedicated palliative care unit at the Borders General Hospital has raised the final million pounds needed.
The Margaret Kerr Unit will open its doors to its first patients on January 7 and the last few weeks, as finishing touches were put to artwork and coffee machines, has seen members of the public and NHS staff getting their first glimpses of the completed £4.1million facility.
Appeal chairman James Marjoribanks admitted he has been overwhelmed by the response from the public.
“We have received over 1,000 individual donations since September 1, 2011, culminating in a total to date of £1,012,000 and it is still growing,” he said.
He went on: “The variety of events and activities that have taken place range from coffee mornings, to marathons, to open gardens – the list is endless.
“On behalf of the fundraising team of myself, Catherine Duthie [vice-chair of NHS Borders] and Clare Oliver [NHS fundraising manager], I would like to sincerely thank once again everyone who has contributed to the creation of this very special place.
“I would especially like to take this opportunity to thank those who have made in memoriam donations for loved ones who could not benefit from the purpose-built facilities, but want others to be able to experience the difference that a specialist palliative care unit will make to the lives of patients and their families with a life-limiting condition.”
The appeal, organised by local health care charity The Difference, involved a partnership between NHS Borders and several charities and groups.
The appeal was sparked after Margaret Kerr, a former nurse from West Linton, died aged 83 in 2009 and left a bequest of more than £500,000 for such a dedicated facility to be built in the Borders.
Other funding included a £750,000 injection from Macmillan Cancer Support and the drive to bridge the funding gap was launched by The Difference less than a year-and-a-half ago.
Up until now, inpatient palliative care has been provided in a ward at the BGH which was not specifically designed for the purpose.
NHS project manager Susan Yates told TheSouthern she was delighted with the news that the appeal had reached its final target.
“It’s fantastic and there’s still a lot of events planned to raise funds, so there’s still money coming in which will all help enhance things”, she said.
Mr Marjoribanks says it has been amazing how quickly the appeal target was reached.
He told us: “We’re actually three months ahead of the target date and in the current financial climate, it is an incredible achievement.
“When we started having the first of our open days last week, the feedback has been extremely positive.
“Margaret Kerr had an idea when she left her legacy and we picked that up and ran with it.
“The fundraising team has worked very hard over the two years, and people coming in today are seeing the fruits of those labours and the results of people’s efforts and generosity and seeing what has been done with that money.”
The unit’s eight large single rooms all have fold-down beds so that relatives can stay and there are also several large lounges and surrounding gardens.
Fundraising manager Clare Oliver says it is not just cancer patients who will benefit from the new unit.
She said: “Anyone approaching the end of care will often still need palliative care and that could include people with neurological conditions, MS [multiple sclerosis] and other conditions.
“We estimate around 200 people a year will come to the unit, including repeat admissions.”
Mr Marjoribanks is confident that what has been created on the site adjacent to the BGH is a place of peace and tranquility. “None of us knows what is round the corner and sometimes some of us get very bad news. But if you have to go somewhere, having a comfortable and tranquil place like this to come to has to be better than being in a hospital ward with bare walls and just a clock to stare at.
“That’s not to take away what has been done at the hospital in the past because that was the best facility available until now.
“But the people of the Borders should be very proud of what has been achieved here in under two years.”
An official opening ceremony for the unit is expected to take place in May.