To the editor:
This letter is written on behalf of the Power and Heino families and references the Patient and Family Care Liaison program that is currently in place at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC).
TBRHSC defines Patient and Family Centred Care (PFCC) as “the provision of care that is respectful of, and responsive to, individual patient/family preferences, needs, and values and ensures that those values guide all clinical decisions. Creating a caring environment for patients and families ensures continuity of care and fosters a learning environment. PFCC is a partnership involving patients, families and healthcare providers that results in safe quality care.”
The COVID-19 pandemic is a horrific time to be unwell or to have a family member with an urgent or non-urgent medical issue. Attending appointments with a family member is hard to achieve. During urgent situations in the past, accessing the bedside of a loved one in the Emergency Room was relatively easy to manage; this is no longer the case.
Our respective families have used the services of the Patient and Family Care Liaison in recent months to obtain medical information and to be granted in-person access as an Essential Care Partner (ECP) for loved ones who are receiving medical care at TBRHSC. In our most recent situations, information was provided by the Patient and Family Care Liaison and access was granted to our family members at the bedside in a relatively short time, as per the policy of TBRHSC.
The Patient and Family Care Liaison program is currently coming to the end of a six-month pilot and is only funded until the end of September. This program grew out of a need for families to obtain patient medical information and gain access to the patient when in-person visitation was not possible due to COVID-19 precautions and safety for patients and staff.
This letter urges TBRHSC to continue to fund this program going forward. The Patient and Family Care Liaison is necessary if TBRHSC is truly to provide “Patient and Family Centred Care” within the COVID-19 pandemic as defined above. Research shows that patients with family support have better outcomes. Those who feel safe and secure while receiving medical care are less likely to experience complications.
As of today, TBRHSC is at 91 per cent capacity, and when nursing staff are working short-handed they are often challenged to provide the necessary care for patients. ECPs can fetch a glass of water, help someone to the washroom, and provide the support and reassurance that patients need. Family members know the patient best and can advise on concerns and focus on the best interests of the patient in their medical journey.
I am sure there are many families in Thunder Bay like ours who are suffering through pain and anxiety throughout the pandemic as patient access and information about their loved ones is not easy to obtain during a medical crisis. Without a liaison in the Emergency Room, where will family members go? What timeline can be expected for medical staff to stop and take time to communicate with families when they are already managing patient care on the front lines?
On behalf of our families, we urge the public to visit TBRHSC’s website and review the information relative to the Patient and Family Care Liaison as well as the policy on Essential Care Partners and how families can complete an Urgent and Non-Urgent Appeal should their access request to attend the bedside of a family member be denied. Further, we call on TBRHSC to continue to fund this necessary program in an effort to achieve the goal of ‘Patient and Family Centred Care’.
Krista Power and Joanna Power