"YOU matter because you are you, and you matter to the end of your life. We will do all we can for you to die peacefully, but also to live until you die."
These are the words of wisdom from Dame Cicely Saunders, founder of the modern hospice, that are embodied day and daily within the local Palliative Care Ward by Sister Thelma Graham, and her dedicated team.
Palliative Care Week took place this month, (September 12 to 18), and raised awareness of the difference Palliative Care can make to people with life-limiting conditions, carers and families throughout the island of Ireland.
Locally, the Palliative Care Ward at Omagh Hospital and Primary Care Complex was established in 2009, first in the old Tyrone County Hospital site, and then transferred to the Omagh Hospital Primary Care complex in 2017.
The renowned local facility is supported by a multi-disciplinary team of health care professionals ranging from nurses, doctors, pharmacist, physiotherapist, dietician, speech therapist, psychologist and administration staff, while patients and families are also supported in the community by the hospice community team.
Sister of the Ward, Thelma Graham, said she and her team work tirelessly to provide the best care for patients and their families.
"Palliative Care is defined for people living with a terminal illness where a cure is no longer possible," She explained. "It is also for people who have a complex illness and need their symptoms controlled.
"This is a situation that affects the patient and the family therefore spending time, listening and communication skills are essential key elements.
"We always try to adopt a holistic approach when dealing with patients with Palliative Care needs. These needs may not be not always be physical but can range from psychological, emotional, social and spiritual components.
"One of our sources of inspiration in Palliative Care was the original founder of the hospice movement, Dame Cicely Saunders who said in one of her guiding principles "you matter because you are you, and you matter to the end of your life. We will do all we can for you to die peacefully, but also to live until you die."
Like any branch of the Health Services, the challenges brought about by Covid-19 have been significant for the ward, which has adapted to a "new normal" while continuing to provide the best possible care.
"The most challenging aspects was to ensure the patients were and staff were safe with the ward environment," Sr Graham continued. "This necessitated measures such as COVID testing, track and tracing wearing of face masks and PPE, and also adhering to the Trust’s policy on visiting restrictions for relatives during the past 18 months."
Sister Graham added that she is grateful for the immense support the ward receives from the local community, which often takes the form of generous donations.
"Something we all greatly appreciate is the support and generosity we receive from families of patients of families we have cared for, and also from families of our local community.
"We use these donations to purchase comforts and equipment for the ward which would not otherwise be possible. Our main aim is to create an environment which is warm and homely as possible."