When he worked in the kitchen of the former Prince Edward Home on Brighton Road in Charlottetown, Joey Matheson was nervous to go into the palliative care unit.
Two decades later, he has been awarded the province’s highest honour for excellence in this field, the Winnifred MacArthur Award of Excellence in Palliative Care.
“I was terrified back then, of dying, of being around people who were dying,’’ Matheson said. “Death was different back then; the care around it has evolved.’’
Matheson said P.E.I.’s care is exemplary, from pain management to the new $5.6-million stand-alone palliative care centre on Murchison Lane in Charlottetown. Opened in 2015, the centre offers a 10-bed palliative care unit, a day program and respite services. An outpatient clinic is planned.
“There are often twice as many volunteers at the centre as staff. The people who volunteer and work in palliative care are amazing.’’
Matheson is a maintenance worker at the centre, who also takes time to be there to support patients and their families. He even runs for popsicles on hot summer days. He tells the story of a fisherman who brings a lobster for every patient every Friday during the season.
“All of the little things mean so much to someone who is dying.’’
Matheson is quick to praise MacArthur, the first recipient of the award which now bears her name.
“Winnie, who retired three years ago after close to 40 years of nursing, was a trailblazer in the field of palliative care, and somebody I had a chance to work with and call a friend for many years.’’