The St. John Hospice facility in Antigua is the only Hospice in the Eastern Caribbean, has been open for over a year and, I am happy to report, is running like clockwork. Our Patron, Her Excellency Dame Louise Lake-Tack, Governor General of Antigua & Barbuda, once a nurse herself, has been very instrumental in securing funding for us and supports us 100%. Our Counsel, chaired by Patrick Henry, overseas the general operation, while Jane George-John provides day-to-day administrative skills. Our aim is to be completely transparent, and to that end, produce an annual report for public information.

As you can imagine, this is extremely important to me, having gone through two years in lobbying the Government to provide the Gwenneth O’Reilly Building at Holberton and a further year in securing funds of $750,000 to complete the renovations. They layout and location of the structure was perfect; however, the termites had taken up residence and this necessitated completely gutting the building, while other structural renovations were also necessary.

St. John Hospice opened its doors on January 1st, 2012 and today employs 17 persons in the capacity of office, housekeeping and nursing care. We offer 11 beds, nine of which are for the terminally ill, while two are for respite care. We are a Not for Profit Organisation, and the fees charged in no way compensate for the cost of running this facility which, after a year, has proven to be $550,000 annually.

The community, both business and private, has been fantastic in their support starting with Dr. Raphael Evanson who volunteers his time providing medical services. Our volunteers provide help with preparing meals, office work, visiting and reading to patients, massage, gardening, painting and repairs, fresh flowers and baked goods. Several companies supply us with weekly groceries and fresh vegetables, and supplement our housekeeping supplies, while others donate periodically. Various organizations have held fund raisers specifically for the Hospice and we are working within the community with such institutions as The American University of Antigua, Breast Friends and Ffeines, just to name a few.

Our staff is indeed special in their care for the patients – from housekeeping, who prepare special meals, to the Registered Nurses and Aides who are the backbone of the organization. Emotionally, it is not an easy business to be in, but a very caring and necessary one, and it takes special people to provide this day in and day out.

Necessary, I repeat; and as more and more people are exposed to the service we offer for the terminally ill, the more the hospice palliative care is appreciated. 2013 saw a definite trend in the acceptance of the Hospice within the community compared to 2012, our first year of operation. It is not the ‘death house,’ people expected, but is actually a happy place; a home away from home, where each terminally ill person is provided with pain control and is loved and cared for, allowing them to die with dignity. It is very peaceful. Family and loved ones may visit at any hour, even spend the night if they wish – visiting hours are not restricted.

Personally, I am still in awe of what has been created here, and until I actually set out to make the Hospice a reality, would never have seen myself in this role, much less conquering the various hurdles, the largest of which was, and remains, funding. I know nothing about nursing or the medical field, seldom getting past the aspirin stage. I am a firm believer in ‘things happen, and they happen for a reason,’ and because the Hospice is what it is, it has received the backing and support of many.

I feel confident that I could step back at any point in time and leave something that will benefit many and endure the passage of time.

Agnes C. Meeker                                                                                                                                 Founder