Early in September 1989, at a meeting of a small group of people in the Library of Portlaoise General Hospital, Consultant Surgeon Peter Naughton planted the seeds which grew into Laois Hospice Foundation - the first such home care team to be established in Ireland outside Dublin.
Within days the first committee was elected: Chairman Tony Mahon, Treasurer Philip Meagher, Secretary Babs Quinn, Assistant Secretary Frank Brennan, PRO Lily Sheeran, Medical Adviser Peter Naughton, Cecil Lewis, Paul Ryan, Larry O'Rourke, Liam Holohan, Paddy O'Connor.
The main role of the committee was fundraising, and to some degree it helped spread the values of hospice service. Then for a time the role expanded into other areas. A particular expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer patients was built up in Portlaoise and the Foundation played a crucial role in helping this develop. For example, a major contribution was made to the purchase of an oncology unit and mammography equipment for the General Hospital.
Close links were established with the Midland Health Board, and through it the Hospice was able to employ Mary Dunne as its first palliative care nurse. Nurse Dunne was succeeded by Nurse Patricia Horan, who was later joined by Nurse Marie McEvoy. These and many other nurses were and are funded to attend courses on pallative care.
Early in the life of the Foundation the growing need for hospice was confirmed. In 1990 there were 37 patients, band by 1992 there were 92. During the first four years 349 terminally ill patients in the county were referred to hospice, and one full-time and four part-time nurses made 5060 domiciliary visits and 347 bereavement support visits. As the service from Laois Hospice expanded throughout the county, it was apparent there was a need to help grieving spouses, parents, family members and friends who may feel helpess, isolated and frustrated. A bereavement service was organised under the direction of Canon Billy Beare and Father Tom O'Byrne.
The committee of Laois Hospice consists entirely of volunteers. A meeting is held annually where we welcome members of the public. An AGM is also held, where directors and officers are elected, and the externally audited accounts of Laois Hospice are approved.
In 2014, Laois Hospice celebrated 25 years serving the communities of county Laois. The Hospice would not have reached its 25th Anniversary without the committee members, officers and all volunteers who give so generously of their time and donations throughout the entire county, as well as all who have opened their homes for the benefit of hospice in Laois.