The Hospice

We are an Otago-wide community-based service. We provide specialist palliative care services free of charge to those who are faced with terminal illness. We have four community teams based in Dunedin, Central Otago, North Otago and South Otago. We also have an inpatient unit in North East Valley, Dunedin.

Mostly care is provided where the patient lives, for example in their own home or in a residential facility. Some of our patients are cared for as inpatients, either in our dedicated Hospice facility or in partnership with community hospitals throughout the Otago region.

In the community, we work closely with primary palliative care providers, such as GPs, District Nurses, the hospital and other community-based health teams. Otago Community Hospice also provides advice and support 24/7 for patients, whānau, caregivers, as well as healthcare professionals and aged residential care facilities needing palliative advice for patients – even if they are not on our

We also deliver palliative care education to Otago’s health and social services sector, with the aim of ensuring better palliative services at all areas of need with programmes such as Palliative Care for Care Assistants, Fundamentals of Palliative Care, Syringe Driver Training and Night Carer Training. Palliative care education is available to all GPs, District Nurses, allied health workers and aged residential care workers as well as students studying health-related subjects.

Palliative care is a branch of health care that looks after those with an advanced terminal illness, an illness that has no cure. Care is specific to each person and focuses on helping them to live the best that they can for as long as they are able. This care can be provided in home or in another place e.g. hospice, hospital or long term residential facility.

Otago Community Hospice has a holistic philosophy of care, based on the Māori model known as Te Whare Tapa Wha (the four cornerstones of health). This means we look after the whole person: physically, emotionally, socially, culturally and spiritually.

We affirm life and believe in making the most of it. Death and grief are part of life’s normal processes. We neither hasten nor postpone death. We use modern medicine and therapies to provide relief from symptoms, including pain and distress. We deliver this holistic care via a multidisciplinary team, whose members include Community Care Coordinators (who are specialists in palliative care), palliative specialist doctors, Nurses, Counsellors, a Social Worker, an Occupational Therapist and a Kaimahi Wairua (Spiritual
Care Coordinator).

  • Those who have a life-limiting diagnosis with little or no prospect of cure, and whose needs exceed those provided by primary palliative care providers alone.
  • Whānau members of an Otago Community Hospice patient who require support, advice and/or education which cannot be provided by primary providers alone. This support can be provided for up to 12 months after the patient has died.

We have four community teams, based in Dunedin, Central Otago, North Otago and South Otago. We also have an Inpatient Unit in North East Valley, Dunedin.

We care for people with many different life-limiting conditions. These include cancer, Motor Neurone Disease, heart or other organ failure, AIDS, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and other terminal illnesses.

Usually patients are referred by GPs or hospital clinical staff. Sometimes patients refer themselves. In this instance, we will need to get a GP involved.

After referral, our team assesses the patient to establish whether Hospice care is appropriate and to set up a care plan.

We recommend referral to Hospice services as early as possible in the process of living with a terminal illness.

First, you will be visited by one of our Community Care Coordinators, who is a specialist nurse in palliative care. A care plan is developed in consultation with you and your family. Care is then shared by our multi-disciplinary team and others already involved in your care such as your GP, District Nurses, hospital specialist.

Yes. Most people using Hospice services prefer to stay at home, and we do everything we can to support this. Sometimes patients need to spend some time in our inpatient unit for more intensive symptom management. More often than not, they return home after this stay. A small number of patients, around one quarter of those admitted, will be too unwell to return home and will stay in the
inpatient unit for end of life care.

Our Community Care Coordinators meet with patients and whānau to discuss their needs and the care services available. They work closely with GPs, District Nurses, hospital specialists and the wider Hospice team coordinating all the services required.

We aim to ensure patients are well supported and symptoms are being managed.

Last year our community team members made nearly 14,500 visits and phone calls to our patients and their whānau. Regular communication within the care team, regarding a patient’s goals and preferences, ensures clear directions if a patient’s condition changes. When a patient is at home or in an aged residential care facility, their “lead carer” remains their GP, with the Hospice staff supporting with specialist palliative care.

  • The patient has complex symptoms that cannot be managed at home.
  • The patient is at end of life and does not want to die at home.
  • The caregiver is acutely unable to continue to care for the patient at home.

The Hospice is not a long term care facility. Patients stay until their physical, psychological, social or spiritual needs are met. If the symptoms require intensive input from Hospice staff, then people may stay at the inpatient unit and this may be until they die.

Our patients describe our inpatient unit as more home-like than hospital-like. We have a holistic and patient-centred philosophy of care. We welcome all-day visiting, and when appropriate, support whānau staying overnight during the patient’s admission.

A patient will not be admitted to the inpatient unit if:

• Their care needs can be managed well in their place of residence by their primary care providers;
• Their goals, treatment preferences or medical needs might be more appropriately met in an acute hospital;
• The patient or whānau do not agree to an admission;
• The patient already has a bed in an aged facility;
• A hospice bed is unavailable due to the number of patients being cared for in the inpatient unit.

In all of the above situations, our team will continue to provide support to the patient and their whānau.

Modern medicines as well as our specialist knowledge, mean that pain can be controlled for almost all patients. For a small number of patients, where managing pain is particularly difficult, the Hospice will discuss options with the patient and whānau.

Patients with life-limiting illness can be faced with a number of distressing symptoms, for example, breathlessness, nausea and/or anxiety. We have confidence that we can provide relief for the vast majority of patients.

Otago Community Hospice has approximately 100 staff. We employ Nurses, Doctors, Care Coordinators, a Social Worker, Counsellors, a Kōwhai Programme Coordinator (whānau education), an Education Coordinator, Kaimahi Wairua (Spiritual Care), Kaimanaaki (Māori Liaison) Administration Staff, Cooks and Fundraising Staff. 81% of our paid staff are involved in patient care.

At any one time we look after an average of 225 people, mostly in their own home. Each year we care for around 800 people. Our Aged Residential Care (ARC) Support Team also provide year round advice and support to all ARC facilities - Otago.

At Otago Community Hospice we acknowledge there are many different views on this emotive and challenging topic and we respect that everyone has the right to their own opinion.

We care for all those who need specialist palliative care in our region. This care is given no matter where the patient lives, what their disease, what their age, their beliefs or their social status. We support people with a terminal illness to live and die well.

A fundamental principle of hospice and palliative care is to neither hasten nor postpone the natural progression of death. As such we will not add euthanasia to our services. Staff will not assess eligibility for assisted dying, nor deliver or be present during the administration of lethal doses of medication.

These medications cannot be administered by anyone on any of our premises. Having said that, we will absolutely respect a patient’s choice to take this path. It will not stop us caring for them in every other way prior to their death.

From experience we know that with the right palliative care a person can have a good quality of life with their dignity maintained and symptoms managed to help them feel as comfortable as possible. Dying is a natural process and part of life. We must focus on helping people to live well until they die.

We would like to encourage people to talk about their wishes when it comes to the end of life, informing whānau and friends what is important to them.

All health professionals caring for patients with terminal illness try to reduce the burden of illness – this is primary palliative care. It is provided in the community by general practice teams, Māori and Pacific health providers, allied health teams, district nurses, residential care staff and community support services.

Providers often have links with specialist palliative care team(s) for the purposes of support and advice, or in order to refer persons with complex needs. They will also have access to palliative care education to support their practice.

When problems are complex or severe, however, patients and whānau should have access to specialist palliative care. Specialist palliative care is palliative care provided by those who have undergone specific training in palliative care.

In Otago, this care is provided by Otago Community Hospice. Specialist palliative care builds on the palliative care provided by primary providers, but at a higher level of expertise in complex symptom management, spiritual support, psychosocial support, cultural support and grief and loss support.

Specialist palliative care provides direct support to patients and their families where their palliative care needs exceed the resources of the primary provider alone.

Rural Services

Yes. We direct all money raised in Otago to providing Hospice services across the region.

When patients need an inpatient admission to control symptoms we will offer to admit them to the inpatient unit in Dunedin. Sometimes, however, patients prefer to stay in their local hospital. When this happens we will work alongside the local hospital team to assist in providing the best care possible.

Dunstan Hospital, Oamaru Hospital, Balclutha Hospital and Wānaka’s Aspiring Enliven, and Cromwell’s Goldenview each has one or more beds with an adjoining family area so that families can stay close to the patient.

These are not Otago Community Hospice beds. However, our specialist Community Care Team will advise and support the clinicians in these facilities to help them provide care for these patients.

Based in Cromwell, our Central Otago team look after patients from Roxburgh up to Wānaka and across to Ranfurly and Haast. All living locally, the team is made up of three Community Care Coordinators, Clinical Nurse Specialists, Social Workers and Counsellors.

In North Otago we are very fortunate to have a hub from which our community palliative services are delivered. The hub houses our Oamaru Hospice Shop, as well as Hospice education delivery, a Hospice counselling room and our two North Otago Community Care Coordinators.

We have a South Otago Care Coordinator looking after patients from The Catlins through to Tapanui and across to Lawrence. North and South Otago have full access to our Family Support Team based in Dunedin including a Social Worker, Counsellors, Kaimai Wairua.

*All our rural services are well supported by regular visits from our palliative care specialist doctors, education delivery in each region and the 24/7 phone service; they also work closely with primary palliative care providers, such as GPs, District Nurses and the local hospital.


Care of whānau during these difficult times is very important. Otago Community Hospice offers practical support for whānau and carers, so call us to see how we can help.

The Kōwhai Programme delivers education for unpaid or informal caregivers (usually whānau members) of Hospice patients. The Kōwhai Programme focuses on the practical skills carers need to know. It provides information on topics such as pain management, nutrition, and how to navigate the medical, hospice and home health care systems.

Visit our webpage to find out more.
Or download our carers podcast Ending Life Well

The care plan is always developed after discussion with the patient and this will often involve close whānau. The aim of our care is to have it centred on the individual needs and wishes of you, the person who is ill.

Care plans are written in consultation with those identified by the patient as important in helping make decisions. Care plans have many aspects: emotional, spiritual, social, psychological and medical. All of these aspects are considered when creating goals/preference plans in the patient’s best interest. The care plan can change as needs change.

Information will always be available to the patient and their whānau and discussion around those changes will always include the patient.

Pets can play an important part in your wellbeing. Provided that your pet is well-socialised and friendly with strangers, we welcome them at the Hospice for visits


Each year it costs around $7 million to run the Hospice. The Government provides about 56% of our funding and we have to fundraise for the remainder. Our service is free of charge, no matter where patients live throughout Otago.

Whānau 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, organising to leave a bequest in your will, donating high quality goods to our shops or volunteering. Learn more about supporting us.

Yes, we do. Nearly 400 volunteers support our operations in roles such as kitchen assistants, receptionists, gardeners, shop assistants and biographers. We also need volunteers for our annual Hospice Appeal in March. Our Coordinator of Volunteers ensures the smooth selection, training and management of volunteers.

We are very grateful for the support we receive from our volunteers – without them we wouldn’t be able to provide our quality service.

Find more information on volunteering here or contact us on 03 473 6005.

We have seven charity shops throughout Otago: in Dunedin, Mosgiel, Oamaru, Cromwell, Alexandra, Milton and Wānaka. You can support our shops by donating any quality items you no longer need. They have a wonderful array of curated goods, both contemporary and vintage

Find out more about our shops here.