MORE than a quarter of people helped by Milford Care Centre (MCC) every year are from Clare.
Clare people are also to the fore in driving and expanding MCC’s services in the Mid-West, particularly when it comes to the work involved in financing and funding the specialist care needed by end-of-life patients.
Milford Care Centre is the designated specialist palliative care service provider for Clare, Limerick and North Tipperary. It operates through consultant-led teams of professionals at Milford Hospice in-patient unit in Castletroy, and its Hospice At Home care teams, working in conjunction with doctors and local respite beds, in support bed units across the region.
The head of finance at MCC is Cathy Sheehan from Ballynacally. Working with Milford since 1997, she has seen a rapid expansion in the range of services offered in response to growing demands over the past 17 years.
“Last year, Milford looked after over 1,500 patients across the region and, with 25% of those in need of care coming from within our own county, as a Clare woman, I get great satisfaction in being able to work within a service sector and an organisation that is so people-driven, where the stakeholders and direct beneficiaries are our own people, living in the Mid-West,” said Cathy.
Sister Phyllis Donnellon from Kilkishen is a key member of the fundraising team that supports Milford and its patients.
Sr Phyllis arrived at Milford in 1986, having previously been based with the Little Company of Mary in St John’s Hospital in Limerick, and in Dublin and Galway.
“In the course of my fundraising efforts, I come in close contact with many relatives of people helped by Milford, who are inspired to help out. This can be a very emotional experience for all concerned,” said Sr Phyllis.
The other members of MCC’s fundraising team are Anne Marie Hayes from Ennis and Melissa Purcell from Barefield.
Fundraising supervisor Anne Marie said when she joined Milford six years ago, she didn’t realise the nature and extent of the services that MCC provided.
“In fact, it’s still true to say that many people in the wider Clare community are not fully aware of the various specialist in-patient facilities and multi-disciplinary Hospice At Home services that the organisation provides for people within our county,” she added.
Brid Murray from Miltown Malbay and Ennis woman, Eileen Williams, are among the Milford staff providing these frontline services to Clare people. Both are clinical nurse specialists, who offer dedicated and caring nursing and emotional support to patients and their families around the county coping with end-of-life circumstances.
It’s not just people with malignant conditions that Milford cares for.
“One in five patients that MCC now looks after, overall, has a non-malignant condition, such as a respiratory, heart, motor neuron or chronic illness,” stressed Eileen.
To be cared for at home is always people’s preference and this is something that Milford sets out to accommodate, as far as possible. The work that Brid and Eileen do is critical to this objective, and they liaise very closely with local GPs and other medical professionals.
Physiotherapist Sinead Slattery, from Corofin, is another member of the Milford team based in Ennis.
“We have a small gym here at our Clare base, located in the Quin Road Business Park, where people can avail of our physiotherapy services. Alternatively, we visit people in their own homes,” Sinead explained.
From its Quin Road base, Milford also offers occupational therapy and social work or counselling services to people around the county, either through homecare visits or people calling in.
As a Little Company of Mary healthcare facility, MCC aims to provide the highest quality of care to patients or residents, family and friends, both in the areas of palliative care and services to the older person.
The general approach to hospice care is that people don’t have to pay for the services. So Milford provides all of the services in the community at no direct cost to patients.
Providing such a comprehensive and high-standard level of service requires considerable funds on an annual basis. As the designated specialist palliative care service provider in the region, MCC has public funding support through the existence of a Section 39 service level agreement with the HSE.
However, the centre relies greatly on community fundraising to make a vital contribution to the overall operating budget for the ongoing provision of services.
“We depend on the generosity and fundraising efforts of the wider community to enable us to offer this special end-of-life care and to continue to develop the services in response to challenging demands,” said Cathy Sheehan.
Melissa Purcell is often surprised and delighted with the help they are given. “I remember a man was determined to take part in our 10K sponsored run/walk event last February, just four days after burying his mother; he felt so driven by the experience,” she said.
All the Milford fundraising team are busy preparing for the Milford Hospice Harvest Fair, their biggest annual fundraiser, which goes ahead at the UL arena on Sunday, August 31 from 11am to 4pm.
“We have always got tremendous support for the fair from Clare people and we look forward to a great turnout this year also.
“I would also stress that we are very anxious to hear from volunteers or community groups throughout Clare, who may be interested in generally organising or supporting fundraising efforts for Milford,” said Anne Marie.
Anybody interested in helping can contact Anne Marie at A.Hayes@milfordcarecentre.ie or the fundraising team at 061 485860/485859, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.