Setting new standards

St Michael Hospice is a game-changer for Malta's healthcare system, addressing a critical need while setting a new benchmark for future palliative care.

Malta’s first comprehensive hospice complex, St Michael Hospice, is nearing completion and ready to welcome patients very soon.

According to Kenneth Delia, the CEO of Hospice Malta, the NGO dedicated to providing free palliative care services to patients with life-limiting illnesses and their families, the centre is designed to “feel like home”. Every day, around 50 workers have been all hands on deck, transforming the 15,000-square-metre Adelaide Cini Institute in Santa Venera into a state-of-the-art facility geared to provide palliative care. The premises will feature 16 private rooms, each with its own garden and bathroom.

Kenneth Delia, the CEO of Hospice Malta.

Why palliative care matters

Palliative care plays a crucial role in enhancing the quality of life for individuals facing serious illnesses, by focusing on providing relief from pain and symptoms, addressing emotional and spiritual needs, and supporting families through challenging times.

It ensures that patients receive holistic care that respects their dignity and preferences, regardless of their prognosis. By emphasising comfort and well-being, palliative care aims to improve the overall experience of illness, promoting a sense of peace and control for patients and their loved ones.

Additionally, it complements curative treatments by offering support that extends beyond medical intervention, fostering a compassionate approach to end-of-life care and helping individuals live as fully as possible until the end.

Photo: Getty Images

A home away from home

The aim is to make the place feel like home. In fact, the new facility is designed to feel less like a hospital and more like a sanctuary where patients can spend their final days in comfort and privacy.

St Michael Hospice will cater to patients with complex symptom management and end-of-life care, allowing for short stays and a turnover of around 500 patients annually. Despite being Malta’s first inpatient palliative care centre, the focus remains on community-based treatment.

The €13 million project is co-funded by the government, the EU, fundraising, and private donations. The National Social and Development Fund (NDSF) has granted €8 million, with an additional €1 million coming from EU funding. The Church handed over the property to Hospice Malta in 2019, and the remaining funds were raised through Hospice Malta’s savings and fundraising efforts.

St Michael Hospice will cater to around 600 patients at any given time, managed by 42 staff members and supported by 200 volunteers. As demand for services grows, the staff is set to increase to 90 professionals. Currently, 14 nurses work at Hospice Malta, each assigned as key workers to manage the best treatment for their patients, supported by doctors, psychologists, and social workers.

Government funding goes directly towards services and partially covers staff salaries. Volunteers, contributing around 13,000 hours annually, support fundraising, patient transport, and administrative duties. Importantly, all hospice services are provided free of charge.

The journey to complete St Michael Hospice began with securing the necessary human and financial resources to equip the complex with the required medical apparatus and professionals. This refurbished building will serve as the main premises for Hospice Malta, enhancing the palliative community services established since 1989.

Hospice Malta continues to seek support from individuals and businesses to sustain its operations. In fact, it raised €581,616 in donations on Sunday during its L-Aħħar Pass telethon. The funds collected during the telethon, which aired on major TV stations, will help complete the St Michael Hospice project, scheduled to open its doors in the coming weeks.

Inpatient Unit

St Michael Hospice will offer an inpatient unit for patients requiring short-term stays. The rooms provide a peaceful and comforting environment that supports their physical comfort and emotional well-being. Each room is equipped with essential amenities such as adjustable beds, soothing lighting, and serene decor. Special attention is given to ensuring accessibility and safety, with features like spacious layouts and easy access to bathrooms equipped with assistive devices.

Offices for community service

The new premises will include offices for the Hospice team, bringing all professionals, management, and team members under one roof.

Education Department

Hospice Malta places a strong emphasis on the education and promotion of palliative care. An educational wing will be dedicated to promoting palliative care to both the public and professionals. This wing, located on the first floor, will also house a mortuary and a medical equipment store. The new educational unit will offer sessions at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, in addition to in-service training for staff and volunteers.

Day Therapy Unit

A separate wing of St Michael Hospice will function as a day therapy unit, welcoming patients who still live at home. This unit will feature a drop-in room for first-time visitors, a physiotherapy gym, and areas for crafts, spiritual sessions, group therapy, and cultural talks. Additionally, a small garden area will be available for therapeutic planting activities.

The day unit will provide a respite for relatives, ensuring their loved ones are in a safe and welcoming environment surrounded by others facing similar challenges.

Storage space for loan equipment services

Hospice Malta will continue to loan various medical equipment, such as wheelchairs, adjustable beds, reclining armchairs, commodes, syringe drivers, and oxygen concentrators, facilitating patient care within their homes for as long as possible.

A milestone for Malta

The establishment of St Michael Hospice marks a significant milestone for Malta, being the first dedicated facility for palliative care on the island. This project underlines the critical importance of providing specialised care for individuals facing life-limiting illnesses. By offering a compassionate and supportive environment, St Michael Hospice will profoundly enhance the quality of life for patients and their families, ensuring that their final days are spent with dignity and peace.

The services reflect a holistic approach to palliative care that addresses physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs.

This project not only fills a crucial gap in Malta’s healthcare system but also sets a standard for the future of palliative care.

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