OVER the past six years Morag Flynn has experienced the facilities of St Margaret of Scotland Hospice as both an outpatient and an inpatient.

She can't speak highly enough of the staff, level of care and comfortable surroundings.

The 59-year-old from Blairdardie was first referred to the hospice by her district nurse after her second cancer diagnosis. Every Monday the hospice bus would pick her up and bring her in to spend the day with fellow outpatients, exercising, playing board games and enjoying treatments such as reflexology.

"It was the company I found really enjoyable because I lived on my own. Coming in here and meeting other people who were in the same boat made such a difference," she says.

"The first person I met when I came to the hospice was Sister Veronica, she came to pick me up at the house in the mini bus and I fell in love with her the minute I met her. She was so caring."

After a third cancer diagnosis, Morag is now an inpatient in a sunny ward upstairs with a bed looking out to the colourful gardens.

"It has made a big difference coming into the hospice. This time I stayed at home for as long as I could but it really got to the point when I had to come in. it's the best thing I've ever done," she says.

"This is really a home from home. You feel more relaxed, you don't have to worry about things, and I know I have help at the end of a buzzer. The staff are fantastic, they are very special people.

"I share a room with another woman and we're company for each other. You don't have to talk all the time, it's just nice to know someone is there."

She says the difference between hospital and the hospice is the amount of time staff have to spend with patients.

"The staff will sit and talk and listen. We'll shut the curtains and have a wee cry or a wee talk.

"When I got last diagnosis my faith was very badly damaged, I was so angry. A priest came in and had a talk with me, I felt better after that. I'm not Catholic but he comes in and gives me a blessing every morning and that helps. He said I had every right to be angry."

With two grown-up daughters and a granddaughter who regularly come to visit, Morag says the hospice gives them peace of mind that she is being well looked after.

Kitty Ritchie was so unwell when she first arrived at the hospice that she was only aware of the peaceful surroundings when her health began to improve.

The 95-year-old had stays at the Royal Infirmary and Southern General before being allowed home to her flat in Hyndland, where she has lived since the 1940s. Her daughter Kay said Kitty was in so much pain she couldn't even raise her head to drink water.

"A McMillan nurse came in and said my mum had to go into the hospice. It was really for pain control but she ended up staying for five weeks," says Kay.

"When she went in she was very seriously unwell and very quickly they started to get her a little bit better. It took a wee while to stabilise everything but they just were fantastic.

"My ex partner died there in November and I knew the doctors and nurses. They're in and out all the time, making sure everything is OK and the patients are comfortable.

"It is quite exceptional. They're so upbeat, when they're dealing with all sorts of really difficult situations. They just seem to get that balance right. I cannot emphasise enough just how caring they are."

Kay explains how different the experience was in the hospice compared to hospital. Staff had time to spend with patients, she could take her mum in a wheelchair to the restaurant for a meal or outside to the garden.

Kitty, who worked as a ceramics restorer until she was 87 and before that was a tracer with Rolls-Royce, also attended an art class.

"It was therapeutic. We got a sheet of paper and water and a big brush and did big brushstrokes. It was great. I'd like to do more of that," says Kitty.

"I think the hospice is wonderful, the staff were very caring and very kind. I can't praise them enough."

At her recent 95th birthday party, family and friends raised £400 for the hospice. Their way of repaying a small debt of gratitude to everyone at East Barns Street.

Overseeing the medical care at St Margaret of Scotland Hospice for the past five years has been Prof John Welsh.

The consultant in palliative medicine and medical director says outpatients are assessed in a holistic manner, assessing all aspects of their life from a physical, psychological, social and spiritual basis.

"One of the great advantages of a hospice is that you have a whole team of people who can meet these needs and they are available very rapidly, which means you can actually address things quickly and actually make an impact," he says.

"These services are there for close relatives, and we have counselling too."

Dealing with cancer patients as well as those suffering from degenerative, neurological conditions; renal failure and heart failure, the medical team are very firmly focused on the patient and their family.

"There are examples of patients who have come to us from a hospital and we have been able to do a little bit more for them that maybe hasn't been done elsewhere. Not because they aren't good, they're just not set up in the same we that we are."

He says working with a team of dedicated, like-minded staff maintains the hospice's high standards.

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