In 2013, as a promise to her dying daughter, Tersia Burger started Alberton’s first ever hospice facility. A mere eight years later, she now not only serves as Chief Executive Officer of Stepping Stone Hospice & Care Services, but has also been appointed as the Chairperson of the Gauteng Hospice & Palliative Care Association.
“I see my involvement in the bigger hospice picture as an extension of my promise to Vicky, to ensure that a person facing the challenges of a life-limiting illness will receive the highest standard of palliative care on their end-of-life journey.”
Vicky Bruce passed away at the age of 39 in January 2013. She was born with a rare and degenerative connective tissue disorder, Osteogenesis Imperfecta which led to years and years of operations, painful procedures and a life almost not worth living. Five months before her death, Tersia found a hospice in Houghton who was willing to assist. Almost overnight Vicky’s quality of life improved, she could get out of bed, her symptoms were under control and she could spend quality time with her loved ones.
“As Chair of the Gauteng province, I am committed to doing everything in my power to achieve higher levels of the Hospice & Palliative Care Association of SA membership, and to improve the mentorship programme,” Tersia says.
“The HPCA is the custodian of palliative care. A membership means you abide by and implement their procedures and policies. It proves to the patient, the families, the medical aids, the donors and all other stakeholders, that hospice facilities are professional organizations where standard of palliative care is measured against a set table of rules, procedures and policies,” she explains.
Tersia’s involvement in the regional and national HPCA began when she was invited onto their National Covid Forum and participated with University Cape Town in compiling a National Covid Homebased Care Guideline. “I also participated in the revision of the 4th Edition of the National Palliative Care Standards.” As Chairperson of GP HPCA, Tersia now represents 14 hospices in the Gauteng region on the National Board. She further chairs the National Mentorship Committee.
It is a great honour and a task she doesn’t take lightly. When asked how these appointments will affect her hands-on approach at Stepping Stone Hospice, she says if anything, it will only enhance her involvement in Stepping Stone Hospice.
“As much as I part with my knowledge, I gain knowledge. I am exposed on so many other levels where I haven’t been before. And now I’m bringing all that knowledge and experience back to SSH. I’m also blessed with an excellent team who runs the day-to-day activities and tasks. I know we provide excellent palliative care to our patients and families. That is something that will never change.”
In terms of the future of Stepping Stone Hospice, Tersia says she aims to achieve a 5-star rating as this will mean international recognition in terms of standards being applied. “I would love to see my dream of a brick building being fulfilled and then of course the Children’s Section, it’s very close to my heart and I want to see us achieve that in the near future.”
Her personal future? “I will go where I’m needed, but Stepping Stone Hospice will also be safely tucked away in my heart,” she says.