Frequently asked questions

We understand that dealing with a life-limiting illness is very stressful and you may have a number of questions about the Hospice and the care we provide.

You may be able to find some answers here or you can speak to your Hospice care team.

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 in an aged care facility. Patients must agree to be cared for by the Hospice.

For more information, visit our referrals page.

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 – that could be a physiotherapist, massage therapist, doctor, spiritual carer or counsellor – to ensure that the 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 prefer to stay at home. We will do everything we can to support patients and their whānau to stay in the comfort of their own home. Sometimes patients may benefit from some time at our specialist Inpatient Unit in Newtown for respite care, symptom management or end-of-life care.

What can the Hospice do for me at home?

Our nurses meet with patients and families to discuss their needs and the care services available. 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. Last year our carers made over 13,000 visits and phone calls to our patients and their loved ones to support them to stay in the comfort of their own home. If this proves difficult, patients are brought into the Inpatient 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 Inpatient Unit and Community Team in Newtown. We offer a Day Hospice for our patients in Newtown and Paraparaumu.

For more information, visit our referrals page.

What is your philosophy of care?

We have a holistic philosophy of care so 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 distress.

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 Inpatient Unit and receive our compassionate end of life care. If the physical, psychological, social or spiritual needs of an individual are such that they require intensive input from Hospice staff, then people can stay at the Inpatient Unit until they die.

Can you get rid of the pain?

Modern medicines and medical techniques, as well as our specialist knowledge, mean that pain can be controlled in almost all 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?

Our nurses work with the patient’s GP, District Nurses and our Hospice team to manage symptoms at home. If this proves difficult, patients are brought into the Inpatient 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 and Paraparaumu and an Inpatient Unit and Community Team in Newtown. There are Day Hospices in Newtown and Paraparaumu providing social activities and support.

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 also support patient’s families in their bereavement.

Can I bring my pet into the Inpatient Unit?

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

What kind of illnesses do people have at the Hospice?

About 70% 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 more.

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 funded?

It costs around $14 million to run the Hospice. The Government provides about 50% of our funding and we have to fundraise for the remainder. We don’t charge patients for any of their care.

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 or volunteering. Learn more about supporting us.

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 in the community. Their support is vital to the work we do.

Where are your shops?

We have eight charity shops – go to our Shops page to learn more.

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, health care assistants, 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 own home, in aged residential care or in our Inpatient Unit.

Who was Mary Potter?

The Venerable Mary Potter was an English nun 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 founded the Little Company of Mary. One of her last acts 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.

Some acronyms you may come across during your care:

ACP Advance Care Planning
AHP Allied Health Professional
APC Annual Practicing Certificate
ARC Aged Residential Care
BAU Business as Usual
CCC Care Coordination Centre
CCDHB Capital Coast District Health Board
CEP Central Equipment Pool
CHS Community Health Services
CNS Clinical Nurse Specialist
DHB District Health Board
DN District Nurse
EOLC End of Life Care
H@H Hospice @ Home
HCA Health Care Assistant
HO House Officer
IPU Inpatient Unit
LDOL Last Days of Life
MO Medical Officer
MOU Memorandum of Understanding
MPA Mary Potter Apartments
NP Nurse Practitioner
NZNO New Zealand Nurses Organisation
PCC Palliative Care Coordinator
PCP Palliative Care Plan
PERQI Professional Education, Research and Quality Improvement
RN Registered Nurse
SMO Senior Medical Officer
SPC Specialist Palliative Care
YTD Year to Date