The Highway Hospice is the oldest palliative care hospice in South Africa, and was founded in June 1982 by Greta Schoeman. The Hospice provides care and comfort to patients with terminal illnesses, as well as support for their care-givers and families. The area covered by the services of this single hospice extends over more than 2000 square kilometres, from Ballito in the north of eThekwini Municipality down to Amanzimtoti and inland as far as Hillcrest.
Within this broad expanse of the Durban community, Highway Hospice sends registered nurses and social workers out to care for anyone in need of their help. An important aspect of their work is the care that is also extended to the families of terminally ill patients, who are often overwhelmed by the circumstances surrounding the suffering of their loves ones. Countless Durban families have been assisted through this painful period by the Highway Hospice, who offer their support free of charge.
The Hospice was initially started in response to the fears that many terminally ill people have of going into large hospitals for nursing and medical care. In order to alleviate the concerns these patients had of being isolated from loved ones, or the feelings of loneliness sometimes created by large institutions, Greta Schoeman provided the first in-care treatment unit for terminally ill patients in South Africa at the guest cottage of her own home. All caregivers, administration staff and fundraisers involved with Highway Hospice at this stage were volunteers and Greta’s home was used as the meeting place and headquarters for two years.
After a fund-raising drive the Hospice was moved to its permanent home at 59 Locksley Drive, which accommodates 8 patients as well as the administration offices. The Hospice further provides education and training in palliative care, mentorship and development of community hospices within the greater Durban area. Caring for someone with a terminal illness is both emotionally draining and physically exhausting. Highway Hospice offers counselling and training to these families and care givers, giving them the skills and support they need in addition to the practical support of registered nurses who come to their homes to assist whenever it is necessary.