New palliative care suites open in Wood Buffalo

December 2, 2020

Jamie Lee Atkin, manager of the Medicine Unit at Northern Lights Regional Health Centre, centre, joins colleagues Tiffany Smith, left, and Trina Crew to showcase new palliative care suites in Fort McMurray.

Left: Katie White, left, and Tiffany Smith, both nurses who work on the Medicine Unit at Northern Lights Regional Health Centre, show one of the new family rooms, part of the hospital’s new palliative care suites.

Right: Jamie Lee Atkin, manager of the Medicine Unit at Northern Lights Regional Health Centre, joins colleagues Tiffany Smith, left, and Trina Crew to showcase new palliative care suites in Fort McMurray.

Family-friendly spaces made possible through donor support

Story by Amelia Schofield

Thanks to donor support, patients who are seriously ill and their families are now benefiting from the addition of three newly-opened palliative care suites at the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre in Fort McMurray.

Known as the Jeremy Snook Memorial Palliative Care Suites, the three new suites are named after Jeremy Snook, a young Fort McMurray man who passed away in 2013. The recently opened suites, which replace two pre-existing palliative rooms, are designed to provide a spacious, modern and comfortable environment for patients receiving end-of-life care and their loved ones.

The $1.68 million project was funded as part of the Northern Lights Health Foundation’s Gratitude Campaign, which raised $16 million toward several projects in Fort McMurray and its surrounding communities.

“We are so grateful to the Northern Lights Health Foundation, the Snook Family, and the many donors who supported the addition of these suites,” says Murray Crawford, senior operating officer, Area 10 Fort McMurray & Area and North Zone Quality.

“With their generosity, we can now provide our patients who are seriously ill with a space that’s bright, modern and comfortable where they can spend meaningful time with their loved ones during the most challenging time in their life.”

Each suite includes a spacious patient room, a family lounge area with a kitchenette and a convertible couch/bed for overnight stays with loved ones as well as a separate bathroom for added privacy.

One of the suites also features a specialized bed for bariatric patients, and an operative window and additional ventilation for Indigenous families who wish to practise traditional ceremonies. All of the suites offer panoramic views of the local Snye River, which provides additional comfort to patients and their loved ones.

“This project was at the heart of the Gratitude Campaign and touched donors throughout the region,” says Cindy Amerongen, executive director Northern Lights Health Foundation.

“They wanted to help create spaces for end-of-life care that enabled families to be together and for patients to be as comfortable as possible.

“We are grateful for all of the contributions that made the construction of these suites possible.”

The palliative suites project proved especially meaningful to Jeremy’s parents, Brian and Gail, who rallied the local community to support their project. They were instrumental to the fundraising efforts by co-hosting the highly successful Jeremy Snook Memorial Car Raffle with the foundation for three years, as well as attracting numerous donations and rallying community support for the project.

In addition to the three suites now collectively named after Jeremy Snook, each individual suite is also named for lead donors to the project — the Imperial Oil Suite in recognition of Imperial Oil and the Imperial Oil Foundation, the RE/MAX Fort McMurray Suite to acknowledge their contribution toward the project, and the Fouts Family Suite in honour of donors Dan and Janet Fouts.

“There are no words for the pain one feels when they’ve suffered the loss of a child, and for Brian and Gail to turn their grief into this beautiful legacy for their son is truly amazing,” says Jamie Lee Atkin, manager of Medicine at the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre.

“Our nursing team and I are deeply grateful to Brian and Gail, and to the foundation, for this remarkable gift that will serve our patients and their loved ones in our community for many years to come.”

See more information on the Northern Lights Health Foundation.