Dr Rick Irvin gets Camphill Community accolades!

Column 118


“We bask in his energy, get annoyed with his exuberance, shake our heads at his boundlessness and treasure his genuineness” Those are the words on an award to Dr Rick Irvin from Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre.

As I spoke with Rick Irvin about his commitment to life and living and dying well, he was fresh from a ski trip and still clicking his heels in absolute glee. Rick has been a great force in bringing sunshine, smiles, altitude and attitude to the business of dying well.

He’s put his considerable energy, his tremendous skills as a palliative care doctor, his community commitment and his personal experience to work on behalf of Hospice Simcoe.

Back when a residential hospice was a far-in-the-future dream, Rick and his wife, Kathy Irvin, and a number of community volunteers–Brigid Campbell-Nash, Pat Bridgnell, Betty Stewart, Hazel Baxter, Joanne DiBlasio, Barb Toivenan, Linda Gooderham, Heather Shortreed– set their sites on palliative care through visiting hospice services, going out to the homes of people who were dying, to give the best possible support to families, caregivers, and the dying person.

Since retiring from his very busy practice as a family physician in 2003, Rick Irvin has dedicated himself to palliative issues. The honorary board chair for the Hospice House build, he knit his enthusiasm with that of many others to mobilize this community to build its own residential hospice. Not everyone can die at home; living out your last days in a facility that’s home-like, with your family at your side, and professional care just outside the door…that’s about as good as it can get.

Barrie’s 10 bed hospice opened in 2009 and has become a model of the kinds of services that a hospice can offer. Rick Irvin says the Barrie region is well served by our Hospice…10 beds for our region built with donations in our region. Toronto’s Hospice has only 28 beds. Richmond Hill has three.

But a palliative care plan doesn’t happen overnight. It takes dedication to develop a process where medical professionals team up with providers of furniture and meals to facilitate the wish of a dying person and the family to pass away at home. Rick’s devotion to help develop this process has made his presence almost like the red seal of approval at any Hospice event. He’s become the recognized voice for palliative issues regionally, even though many other professionals play important roles.

A recent recipient of the first ever Prime Minister’s Volunteer awards, Rick Irvin is about to add another ‘trophy’ to his wall of tribute. Camphill Communities Ontario is honouring Rick next Thursday night, March 20, at its second annual tribute dinner.

Camphill gave its first ever tribute dinner award to Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman a year ago. Next Thursday, Jeff Lehman will pass the torch and present the award to this Barrie area family doctor and palliative leader.

The ultimate story-teller, Rick Irvin will have to sit back and listen to stories about himself from people who know the significance of his life lived in Barrie. Rick is also an enthusiastic supporter of the work of Camphill Communities whose staff and volunteers care for handicapped children and adults in home environments in both urban (Barrie) and rural (Essa Township) settings in our region.

Speaking about Rick are Jim McIntosh, the inciteful mind and community connector behind the Hospice House build.

Dr Jim Shaver, chief of staff at Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre, is heavily involved in the Palliative Network and its continued development. He will also address Rick Irvin’s contribution to the community.

Judi Shields, retired Childrens Aid Society Communications Director, and a former patient and friend of the Irvin family, will give the patient perspective during the evening.

Rick Irvin’s son, Tim, will also speak during the tribute evening, representing not only himself but his sister, Debbie, who passed away in 1984 and his mother, Kathy, who died in 2005.

Willard Kinzie, politician, activist, neighbour and friend, will be the final speaker.

This promises to be an evening of great laughter, great community. Music, words, terrific food at Liberty North Conference Centre on Caplan Dr, camaraderie, and celebration, all wrapped up into an evening honouring a leader. You can be there for the price of a $125, most of the funds going to Camphill. To register, email: info@camphill.on.ca or phone: 705 728-7752.

While Rick Irvin packed away his stethoscope last year, his commitment to dying people continues. He tends the flower beds at Hospice House on Penetanguishene Rd. And he’s committed to ensuring that every single visitor in every single bed can look out his or her window and enjoy the colourful simplicity of birds… very important to a dying person. It’s Rick who slogs through deep snow up both sides of the building to ensure each resident has a view of a full bird feeder.

Simple acts. Of kindness. Thanks, Rick.