Jasmine hospice opens with royal pomp and circumstance

Duchess Camilla cuts the ribbon, officially opening Jasmine Villa, a facility for hospice and palliative care patients. Pictured with her, from left, are Jasmine chairman Chris Duggan, the facility’s medical director Dr. Virginia Hobday, fundraiser Derek Haines and Jasmine’s director of operations and nursing, Felicia McLean. - Photos: Taneos Ramsay

Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, officially opened Jasmine Villas, Cayman’s new hospice and palliative care facility, during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday.

The duchess participated in the opening ceremony and toured the facility, greeting local children and members of the community who lent a hand to the project, which was largely funded by public donations.

Chris Duggan, chairman of Jasmine, and government minister Joey Hew made opening remarks. They then led the duchess on a brief tour of the hospice-care facility.

“This is icing on the cake,” Hew said. “This is perfect after such a tremendous community effort, and it’s a wonderful story to have the royals visiting us and the duchess open the villas. It’s been a dream of Jasmine, formerly known as [Cayman HospiceCare], to have a home for itself, not to mention a patient-care facility. It was a long time coming. It took one man to start the fundraising and the country jumped behind him.”

With that last comment, the minister was referring to Derek Haines, a one-man ambassador of fundraising. Haines, an avid endurance athlete, embarked on a series of fundraising runs in 2014 that ultimately raised around $1.7 million for Jasmine.

“It’s almost five years since the first marathon in Paris,” Haines said. “It’s just fantastic to see everybody here and surrounded by a lot of the people very much involved in it.

The duchess meets local school children at the hospice opening.

“I did the running and kicked off the fundraising, but look around the room. All these people were involved, whether it’s the Dart foundation or John Doak with the architecture. It was the whole community at large, from large donations to the dreadie on the bike who gave me $6. It makes such a difference.”

John Doak, the head of a local architecture firm, was thrilled to be a part of the project, and he said that he wanted the Jasmine facility to be a warm building that celebrated the lives of its patients. Doak said that he had never met the duchess before and he was proud to be part of the receiving line.

“She’s an extraordinary person,” he said. “She went around the entire room and she clearly has an interest in this project and the contributions of everyone here. It was a delightful experience.”

And it was not just a community effort. It was a family affair. Jackie Doak, the president of business development for Dart’s real estate division and the wife of John Doak, said that it was a thrill to be part of the larger effort of building Jasmine, and that Dart took great pride in its accomplishment.

Duchess Camilla chats to Derek Haines, who raised $1.7 million through marathon runs for Jasmine, as Chris Duggan looks on.

“It all started with Derek, who really created a tidal wave within the community,” she said. “We were very supportive of Derek’s goals, and as part of that, we agreed to donate this land …. The road that’s just gone through by the front will actually connect to Camana Bay proper. In addition to being a community effort, it’s been a company effort. Chris Duggan is on the board of hospice, and Derek was with us for 12 years before he left us to do a lot more fundraising.”

A day after Jasmine got its royal opening, staff, well-wishers and supporters gathered the next evening for a celebratory opening of the facility.

The hospice and palliative care centre will provide professional and diligent care free of charge to its patients, and the facility will be administered by a staff of nine and a rotating group of volunteers.

Jasmine chairman Chris Duggan, left, with Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and Minister of Commerce Joey Hew beside the newly unveiled plaque at Jasmine Villa on Thursday.

Planning for the facility began in 2014, and the Planning Department granted permission for the construction to begin in November of 2016. There was a ceremonial groundbreaking in June 2017.

“On this occasion of the historic visit by the Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, this is also a very historic day, not just for our organization at Jasmine but for the Cayman Islands,” said Duggan at Thursday’s event.

“It marks the first time the Cayman Islands has had a dedicated in-patient hospice and palliative care unit,” he added. “It’s a huge achievement. It’s been 20-plus years in the making. It’s always been a dream of our organisation.”