Niagara Hospice and the Schoellkopf Health Center on May 10 announced a new partnership that will lead to the opening of a dedicated hospice unit on the Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center campus.
The new unit, to be located on the second floor of the Schoellkopf Health Center, will be named for David Winker, a beloved Memorial Medical Center employee who spent his final days surrounded by family members while being cared for at Niagara Hospice House.
Winker, who died May 5, had worked at Memorial since 1966 when he was hired as a dietary kitchen helper. He was promoted to senior attendant in 1970 and assigned as a dietary stores clerk in 1983.
Winker, except in the wintertime, rode his bicycle to work every day for nearly 47 years from his Town of Niagara residence. The unit will be named David's Path, providing a fitting tribute to him and his love of riding.
"In a very real sense, the Memorial Medical Center family was David's family. In the 47 years that he worked here, I don't know that he ever missed a day until very recently," Memorial President & CEO Joseph A. Ruffolo said. "David was one of those guys who everybody seemed to know and we all felt a very real sense of loss when we learned of his passing. Naming our new hospice unit for him is our way of saying how much he meant to us."
The new hospice unit is scheduled to open this fall. Some $200,000 will be spent to renovate, redecorate and equip 14 private rooms that will have new flooring, new beds and new furniture. Patients there will receive specialized services from physicians, pharmacists, nurses, medical social workers and spiritual care providers as well as massage therapists, allied therapists, support staff, volunteers and bereavement counselors.
Niagara Hospice President and CEO John Lomeo said: "Niagara Hospice has enjoyed a long term relationship with Schoellkopf Health Center as a partner in care. When Niagara Hospice was looking to expand its footprint in ways to better serve terminally ill residents residing in nursing facilities, we strategically selected facilities that shared a common mission of caring and commitment to the community, the staff and most importantly the residents that call their facility home. Our shared commitment continues through David's Path as we bring more care and more comfort to residents and families on their end of life journey."
Hospice facilities emphasize palliative care for people with serious illnesses. Such care focuses on providing relief from the symptoms, pain and stress of a serious illness with the aim of improving the quality of life for both the patient and the family.
Hospice care is appropriate for individuals when the prognosis is approximately six months or less to live if the disease were to run its normal course. Patients who live longer than six months can often continue on hospice.
Ruffolo said the Schoellkopf partnership with Niagara Hospice to provide that care is a natural next step in Memorial's transformation from a safety net hospital to a collaborative center of community health.
"Hospice care brings so many advantages to patients nearing the end of life," said Ruffolo. "Hospice patients are more comfortable, enjoy a higher quality of life and often a longer life as a result of the specialized services they receive."
Ruffolo noted that hospitals and other organization typically give naming rights to philanthropists, community activists, elected officials or individuals with high profile names.
"But we believe David Winker meant more to this organization over 47 years, especially to the hundreds of people he worked with. Therefore, he deserves to be remembered in a special and enduring way - as an honored member of our Memorial family," Ruffolo said.
"David faced significant challenges in his life. Those of who knew him marveled at the way he faced them head on and overcame them," Ruffolo said. "He always showed up early and never missed a day until he was stricken by the illness that would claim his life."