Frequently asked questions

How do you get referred to Mary Potter Hospice?

People who have an illness where a cure is not possible and death can be reasonably expected within a year can be referred to the Hospice. GPs and hospital clinical staff make referrals. Patients are assessed to establish how complex their palliative care needs are, and whether hospice care is appropriate. In some cases people will not need the intensive care the Hospice provides and can be cared for by their GP, district nurse and carer at home or aged care facility. Patients must agree to be cared for by the Hospice.

What happens if I go into Hospice care?

Patients are seen first by a Palliative Care Coordinator, a senior nurse with specialist skills in palliative care A plan of care is developed and patients are seen by other members of the multidisciplinary team to ensure that care given is appropriate for each individual and their family.

Can I stay at home and be cared for by Hospice?

Most people using the Hospice’s services stay at home. Sometimes patients come to the In-Patient Unit in Newtown for a short stay, say seven to ten days, to provide respite care for care givers and/or for more intensive symptom management.

What can the Hospice do for me at home?

Our Palliative Care Coordinators meet with patients and families to discuss the needs and the care services available. The Palliative Care Coordinator will maintain frequent contact with the patient and their family. They will work closely with GPs, District Nurses and hospital specialists, and they communicate continuously with the multidisciplinary team at the Hospice to make sure patients are well supported and symptoms can be managed at home. If this proves difficult patients are brought into the In-Patient Unit for pain and symptom management.

How easy is it to access Hospice services?

Mary Potter Hospice services are free and there are no waiting lists. We have Community Teams in Porirua and Paraparaumu, and an In-Patient Unit and Community Team in Newtown. Each base also has a Day Unit providing social activities and support.

What is your philosophy of care?

We have a holistic philosophy of care. We look after the whole person – their physical, emotional, social, cultural and spiritual needs. We affirm life and believe in making the most of it. For us death and grief are normal processes, we neither hasten nor postpone death. We use modern medicine to provide relief from pain and distressing system. Our services are coordinated and delivered by specialist health professionals. We provide a support system to help carers and families cope.

When is the right time to use Hospice services?

The best time for referral is when diagnosis of a terminal illness is made. Early referral is much more effective than late referral. The decision to use Hospice services is made between the patient, their family and carers in the community or hospital.

Can I stay at the Hospice until I die?

A few patients will stay in the In-Patient Unit until the end of their life. While we don’t provide a long-term facility, if the physical, psychological, social or spiritual needs of an individual are such that they require intensive input from Mary Potter Hospice staff, then people can stay at the In-Patient Unit until they die.

Can you get rid of the pain?

Modern medicines and medical techniques mean that pain can be controlled in a very high percentage of patients. For a few where managing the pain is particularly difficult we call in the specialist skills of the Chronic Pain Team from Wellington Hospital.

What about other symptoms?

The Palliative Care Coordinators work with the GP,  District Nurses and Hospice staff both clinical and therapeutic to manage symptoms at home. If this proves difficult patients are brought into the In-Patient Unit for symptom management.

Do people have to pay?

No. Mary Potter Hospice services are free.

Is there a waiting list?

There are no waiting lists.

Where are you based?

We have Community Teams in Porirua, Paraparaumu and an In-Patient Unit and Community Team in Newtown. Each base also has a Day Unit providing social activities and support. For addresses and contact details, click here.

Are you like a hospital?

No we are not. We have a different philosophy of care. We look after the whole person – their physical, emotional, social, cultural and spiritual needs. We affirm life and believe in making the most of it. For us death and grief are normal processes, we neither hasten nor postpone death.

We use modern medicine to provide relief from pain and distressing system. Our services is coordinated and delivered by specialist health professionals. We provide a support system to help carers and families cope.

Is it too early for me to use Hospice service?

The best time for referral is when the diagnosis of a terminal illness is made. Early referral is much more effective than late referral. The decision to use Hospice’s services is made between the patient, their family and carers in the community or hospital.

Can I bring my pet into the In-Patient Unit?

We are not able to house pets at the In-Patient Unit, but pets can visit by arrangement.

What kind of illnesses do people have at the Hospice?

About 80% of our patients have cancer, but we can care for any person with a limited life expectancy from such causes as motor neurone disease, heart or other organ failure, AIDS and the like.

What happens if my family and I don’t agree about my plan of care?

The plan of care is developed after discussion with the patient and family. The aim of our care is to have it centred on the individual needs and wishes of the person who is ill, and is written in consultation with all those involved. The plan of care can change as needs change. Information will always be available to the patient and their family/whānau.

How is Mary Potter Hospice paid for?

It costs around $12 million to run the Hospice. The Government provides about 50% of our funding and we have to fundraise for the remainder. How can you support us?

I want to give something back to the Hospice to thank them for the care of my loved one what can I do?

Families often like to thank the Hospice in some way for looking after their loved one. There are many practical ways you can help us. For example, by making a regular donation, leaving a bequest in your will, donating goods to our shops, volunteering and so on. Please click here for more information.

Do you have any volunteer supporters?

Yes we do. Three hundred volunteers support our operations in roles such as serving meals, transporting patients and helping out with office work. There are 200 volunteers working in our eight shops, and during our annual street collection another 800 volunteers help us. There is a lot of work put into the selection, training and management of volunteers. We are very grateful for the support we receive from  our volunteers.

Where are your shops?

We have eight shops – click here for more information.

How many staff do you have and what do they do?

We have around 120 staff (90 full-time equivalent). We employ nurses, doctors, social workers, counsellors/spiritual advisors, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, administration staff, educators and fundraisers.

How many patients do you treat?

In 2015/16 we cared for 869 people and we look after between 260 to 280 people at any one time, mostly in their on home, or in aged residential care or in our Inpatient Unit.

Who was Mary Potter?

The Venerable Mary Potter was an English nun and religious mystic who lived from 1847 to 1913. She suffered ill health all her life which gave her a great sense of compassion for the terminally ill. She had a vision of a life of prayer and ministry to the sick and dying and she found the Little Company of Mary. One of her last acts just before she died was to give approval for the Order to go to New Zealand . The Little Company of Mary arrived in Christchurch in 1914.

When did the Hospice start?

The nuns of the Little Company of Mary based in Calvary Hospital, Newtown gifted Mary Potter Hospice to a Trust in 1979 to serve the people of Wellington. Mary Potter Hospice was the first hospice in New Zealand.

What is the modern hospice movement?

It was founded in the 1950-60s by Anglican nurse, physician and writer, Dame Cicely Saunders. She developed a philosophy of modern care of the dying using specialist palliatives care principles. She founded the first purpose built hospice St Christopher’s in North London. Mary Potter Hospice incorporates the heritage of both the Venerable Mary Potter and Dame Cicely Saunders.