Katie Rose Cottage Hospice CEO John Gabrielson and board chair Carol Raye.
Katie Rose Cottage Hospice CEO John Gabrielson and board chair Carol Raye.

Keeping Katie’s doors open in tough times

NOT even the nastiest pandemic in 100 years has been able to stop the highly motivated small army of staff and volunteers at Doonan’s Katie Rose Cottage Hospice from supporting their guests’ end of life experience.

And no-one is prouder of Katie Rose’s resilience in the face of extreme financial and personal challenges than hospice service CEO John Gabrielson.

And he’s delighted to say a little of the pressure to keep the doors open of the tranquil and welcoming three-bedroom cottage home away from home in Beddington Rd has eased.

“The retail (op) shops opened on Monday and it really started with a bang,” Mr Gabrielson said.

“Our ‘vollies’ (volunteers) were really keen to come back to the shops and they all had record days.

“This week is National Volunteer Week and we’ve been celebrating our vollies, they are the backbone of everything.

“Next week coincidentally is National Palliative Care Week, so it’s a couple of big weeks for us in amongst all the COVID-19 stuff.”

Now with the Noosaville op shop warehouse, and the Cooroy, Tewantin and Maroochydore back and going gangbusters, Mr Gabrielson and his small board of four have been marvelling at the determination of their team to make the last days of their patients’ lives all quality with lashings of love and first rate care.

Just some of the volunteers at Katie Rose Cottage Hospice service.
Just some of the volunteers at Katie Rose Cottage Hospice service.

“We’re powered by a very engaged team both volunteers and employees,” Mr Gabrielson said.

“We have over 300 volunteers and we’re only three-and-a-half years old.

“We’re first an foremost an incredible community organisation and we’ve worked hard to access JobKeeper and with the State Government to access some other special funding,” he said.

He said surviving in the COVID-19 enviroment has meant being prudent to “make sure that we focussed everything we could to provide the hospice service out here”.

“We have three rooms and a lot of the time two of those were occupied. We have two people in there at the moment,” Mr Gabrielson said.

“We went 24/7 late August 2018 and we’ve served 70 people so far … it’s not about just old people either, our age range is about 36 to100.

“We’re an accredited organisation so we have to report to government – the last time we reported I think our average age was about 60 and that fluctuates each quarter,” he said.

“We’ve had people stay with us for hours and then we’ve had people who have stayed for 50 days plus.”

He said Katie Rose offers an amazing service and keeping their head above trouble waters was mostly about ensuring Katie Rose had money in the bank.

“As a not-for-profit we have to work hard to do that”.

Katie Rose has a service agreement with Queensland Health but relies heavily on the op shops and fundraising activities to cover their costs.

“Over the last two or three months our fundraising had stopped and our shops have stopped,” Mr Gabrielson said.

“We’re well supported by the community and we need to be if people want this service,” he said.

“That’s even harder at the moment because people are hurting.

“The care out here is amazing, the hospice is what is called a cottage hospice, that is it is a one step from home model.

“Research shows that most people want to die at home, 75 per cent in fact want to but 14 per cent get to. It’s the only one of a kind we believe in Australia that is accredited.”

Katie Rose hopes to influence the Queensland Government and the people of Australia with the model of care that is “very initmate and personal”.

“It also looks after family and friends, but that’s also been very challenging with the COVID thing, because we have obligations to make sure that we do everything we can to protect our team and our guests from COVID,” Mr Gabrielson said.

“We’ve had to restrict access to the hospice just of late, so the people who are here dying with us, it’s been their direct family members.

“Normally their friends and other relatives would be able to come and spend time with them.

“It’s been quite sad and in some respects challenging for all of us because it means people don’t get to see their friends at the end of life,” he said.

The hospice has a 24/7 registered nursing team on hand working closely with the paitient’s doctor and Palliative Care Queensland to make sure they deliver the best medical care.

Mr Gabrielson said Katie Rose also has personal carers in people who are ex-nurses who come during the day to support the staff alongside hospice support volunteers who do the teas and the coffees.

“They’re supporting our guests in the final days. We’d be absolutely lost without them, our small army of vollies,” he said.