A state of the art £13 million adult hospice will ensure that the highest level of palliative care is available in Northern Ireland.
The new centre, on the site of the old hospice at Somerton Road in north Belfast, is on course to take its first patients this spring.
It will include 18 beds in single en-suite rooms with supporting facilities for staff, families and volunteers.
A new day hospice facility and a dedicated education and resource centre are planned, and the old Victorian building has been retained as a high street style cafe to allow patients a greater sense of normal life.
The NI Hospice cares for more than 3,000 adults each year, but can support many more once the new centre is fully operational.
Heather Weir, Northern Ireland Hospice chief executive, said: “We could never have reached this stage of building the new hospice without the financial support from fundraisers.
“I would like to pay tribute to all of our donors that have supported so far. Individuals and groups in the community, charitable trusts, corporate sponsors and government support have all been instrumental in getting us this far.”
The first and deputy first ministers and health minister visited the construction site on Thursday.
The building was partly funded by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) through a £2.7 million grant.
First minister Arlene Foster said: “The organisation’s vision of access for all to world class palliative care is coming to reality here today thanks to the dedicated work of the Northern Ireland Hospice.
“I commend the hospice in its work to reach out beyond cancer to help those people most in need of the selfless commitment and care provided here.”
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said it was the first purpose-built and dementia-friendly hospice anywhere in the UK and Ireland.
“This visionary project will support our future generations and I am both humbled and inspired to see such progress and determination by all the people engaged with the hospice,” he said.
Director of nursing and patient services Loretta Gribben said it was “an amazing achievement” to have the centre on the verge of completion.
“The fact that we have single, en-suite rooms which are dementia friendly, opens the doors up to a whole range of people we wouldn’t have been able to accommodate...and every room opens up into the patient’s own private space,” Ms Gribben said.
NI Hospice volunteer Heather O’Neill became involved following the death of her husband Derek eight years ago.
She said the support provided while Derek remained at home was invaluable, making her determined to support others at such a difficult time in their lives.
“They were so, so good to my husband it was unbelievable. He had a palliative care nurse from the hospice and that was my first experience of the NI Hospice,” Mrs O’Neill said.
“I do reception, I do admin and I go and sit with patients to give their relatives a break. I also take people to hospital for appointments.
“I get more back from volunteering from what I give. I love meeting people and it is a pleasure for me to be there,” Mrs O’Neill added.