“Palliative care is what we need to share with the community” – Sr. Jane Phillips

#HospiceVisits continue this week with a closer look at Breede River Hospice. Serving the entire Langeberg sub-district, the Breede River Hospice is a well-loved and a respected beacon of hope and healing to all those living within the beautiful Breede Valley Winelands region.

Sr. Jane Phillips, current Manager of Breede River Hospice, shed some light on her history with the hospice and where it all began for her as well as Breede River.

Where it all started

“It really all started for me when I was a student nurse and I visited a patient who was at the time a friend of mine, at St Luke’s hospice. The atmosphere, the love, the spiritual comfort that I felt during this visit planted a seed in my mind that one day this is something I would want to do and be involved in” stated Sr. Jane.

In 1988, she then moved to Bonnievale with her family and that is where she read in the local paper that there were talks of starting a hospice, and that there was a steering committee being formed around the idea. She immediately made contact and requested if she could form part of developing the hospice, and that is when it all started.

Giving thanks to St Luke’s Hospice

Sr. Jane recalls how grateful Breede River Hospice were to St Luke’s hospice who held their hands and give them a lot of support. In March 1999 is when we officially started this hospice. The “lightbulb” moment, she recalls, was through her visit to St Luke’s all those years ago when she was present with the sisters seeing the care they were providing, she knew this was where she wanted to be.

Getting Breede River Hospice off the ground

“An opportunity arose for me to do a palliative care course which was just what I needed to start a hospice. There had to be at least one qualified person in the setting, so I decided to upskill myself and get the qualification.”

Sr. Jane has been an active member of Breede River Hospice for 17 years now. When she started she was appointed as a community-based sister which involved her in doing home visits to the patients. In the beginning stages she only saw one patient, while still consulting with St Luke’s and constantly getting advice from them telephonically.

“I remember driving up and down to see patients in the first six months in my grandfather’s dilapidated car and with no salary, but I loved it! It was my passion and I wanted to make it work.” she added.

In about two months Breede River Hospice grew to seeing 33 patients, and with that came the employment of extra hand power and that is when Maria Demjan was appointed. Jane elaborated on the great team Maria and herself were. “Maria had great expertise in admin and finance knowledge and I had my compassionate motive to care style, so together we formed a formidable combination to get the organisation going, which has really just grown and grown for there on.”  

The growth of Breede River Hospice

As more patients became aware of Breede River hospice and the impact they are making in the community and the patients they help, so did the numbers of patients increase and that is when Jane then became the “patient care manager”, which she did for about 5 years. Maria then resigned from Breede River Hospice and Jane was then tasked to be the general manager which she recalls she honestly was not ready for. The appointment was really through HPCA (Hospice Palliative Care Association of South Africa) and Maria Demjan, who encouraged Jane to do it. ”I then completed a LDP course to further upskill myself and to be prepared for my new role.” 

Importance of a strong team

“I am the type of person who is very happy and comfortable to ask for help and when I employ people I always look to employ people who know more than what I know. I am not a dictator of any kind. I work with people who I see as equal to myself.”

“My finance team is strong, my education team is strong, and my social workers are strong. I could basically walk away tomorrow from this organisation and they would be perfectly fine”, she added.

Breede River Hospice currently have a 64 strong team and the number of people who they look after is +- 250.

Positives and negatives experienced:


  • Being appointed as the manager, more importantly the faith that was shown in me from my staff
  • Getting through our first accreditation which was something Jane recalls that really united the staff.
  • Being able to expand the nursing department, having our own Doctor and social workers and in essence having the opportunity to give people employment has always been a highlight to Jane.



  • The real negative for Jane was in 2012 when they had to unfortunately retrench staff. Jane personally took it very badly and it was an incredibly dark time for her.  However, at the end of a dark tunnel there is always light and after that horrible bump Breede River showed fantastic resilience to get up from that and to build themselves up again.


How Sr. Jane would like to end her career

Sr. Jane mentioned that she would love to end her career as a nursing sister. It is the spark that got her going all those years ago and it’s something she is very passionate about still. She tries to still involve herself with patient care as much as she possibly can. “Patient care was the beginning and I would like it to make it the end when I eventually retire” she concluded.

Find out more about Breede River Hospice, here.