Susan Gamble, The Brantford Expositor
Published on: May 4, 2020
The physical distancing requirements aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19 have meant changes in how people can say goodbye to their loved ones at the Stedman Community Hospice,
“Our rules have changed but our overall objective is still the same – to ensure the best possible hospice experience for the patient, family and their visitors,” said executive director Elaine Calvert.
She said patients and their family members understand the new guidelines before admission.
“Everyone is provided with the information prior to an admission decision so they can understand the rules before they come. We make sure there’s a full awareness.”
The biggest change is that the hospice, with few exceptions, permits only one designated family member to be with a patient during the admission phase and one family member at a time when death is imminent. It’s similar to rules at Brantford General Hospital, where visitors are barred except for specific compassionate grounds to see dying patients.
But the design of the hospice’s Hankinson House, which opened in 2014, makes it accessible for “window visits,” said Calvert. Each of the 10 rooms that house patients has a large low window.
“They’re very popular and we are so fortunate to have a building that can accommodate privacy.”
A large deck soon will accommodate outdoors visits, too.
Hankinson House also is outfitted with technology that allows people to visit using FaceTime and Skype. And staff is on hand to support phone calls and virtual visits.
“We’re seeing every kind of device and all kinds of virtual presence you can imagine,” Calvert said. “Sometimes it even means combining a phone call with a window visit.”
Such visits are planned and co-ordinated with the staff.
“We’ve had to get very creative,” said Calvert.
“These are such unusual times but I could not be more proud of our staff. The level of co-ordination and commitment they demonstrate each day to ensure the patients and their families are supported is amazing.”
All visitors to the hospice are screened and staff wear masks and follow physical distancing guidelines set by the province.
Calvert said the hospice misses its volunteers who helped in the kitchen and with maintaining gardens.
“They are such an important part of the team and we very much look forward to welcoming them back.”
Despite the new rules, no one has turned down admission to Hankinson House, said David Wormald, president of the St. Joseph’s Lifecare Centre, which runs the hospice, along with the adjacent long-term care residence..
There have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in residents of either the hospice or at long-term residence.
A COVID-19 outbreak was declared at St. Joseph’s on April 2 after a staff member at the long-term residence tested positive for the virus. That outbreak was declared over on April 12 but a second staff member tested positive April 23. But subsequent extensive testing has yielded no further positive results.
“We took a very proactive approach early on and our staff is absolutely dedicated to our hospice and long-term residents,” said Wormald. “They’re showing such commitment and living our mission of compassion, courage and care.”
He said St. Joseph’s considers it essential to protect its staff, residents and their family members.
“These are quite extraordinary times but we continue to be vigilant.”
Sunday was to be date for the 16th annual Hike for Hospice, which has been postponed due to the virus. The hospice has an annual operating budget of about $3 million, with about half funded by community donations through the St. Joseph’s Lifecare Foundation. Last year’s hike brought in just over $338,000.
The hike was also meant to mark the official retirement of Olga Consorti from the president and CEO role she has held with the foundation for the past 30 years. She has agreed to stay in the role until at least the end of June.
St. Joseph’s Health System & Niagara Health launch new pilot surveillance project to protect the most vulnerable in our health system
April 20, 2020 – COVID-19 has had a devasting effect within many congregate care facilities caring for vulnerable elderly residents, prompting the Ontario government to call for greater testing in long-term care and retirement homes.
With that in mind, St. Joseph’s Health System (SJHS) and Niagara Health are taking the vital step in testing all asymptomatic patients, residents and select staff within its long-term care, retirement home and congregate settings as part of a pilot surveillance project.
Under the directive of Dr. Tom Stewart, CEO of St. Joseph’s Health System and Niagara Health, and the SJHS Executive team, supported by Research Institute and Lab, the project will test our most vulnerable patients and residents, including those living in long-term care, to save lives.
Researchers at the Research Institute of St. Joe’s Hamilton, McMaster University, Guelph Assessment Centre, Public Health Ontario Lab and select public health units across the GTA are working together to test thousands of samples collected from long-term care facilities and retirement homes.
“We are testing the prevalence of asymptomatic COVID positive cases that could inform future testing strategies and prevention measures to curb the spread of this devastating virus and save lives,” Says Dr. Jack Gauldie, Vice-President of Research at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. “It’s vital we learn how we can protect our most vulnerable population and our staff today and, in the future. We need to share our findings widely to make changes to how we protect the elderly living in congregate settings.”
“St. Joseph’s Health System and Niagara Health are committed to delivering integrated care across the continuum,” says Dr. Tom Stewart. “With our capacity and network of hospitals, research laboratories, long-term care home, Home Care, and retirement homes, it would be irresponsible not to put our collective efforts together in the fight against COVID-19. If our surveillance project demonstrates that asymptomatic cases can be COVID positive, it will dramatically change the COVID-19 response and prevention strategy going forward and most importantly will save lives.”
Testing of staff, residents and patients across St. Joseph’s Health System and Niagara Health has already begun.
“We have tested all 111 long-term care residents for COVID-19 whether they had symptoms or not. All results have come back negative,” Says Lynn Guerriero, President of Niagara Health. “We need to do everything we can to minimize the risk to our residents, and testing will continue on a regular basis to support a safe environment and understand more about this virus.”
The Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, working with the Ministry of Long-Term Care and Ontario Health, will review results from these tests and work to refine testing guidance as appropriate to support continued testing of asymptomatic residents and staff.
- Research at St. Joes
- St. Joseph’s Villa Dundas
- St. Joseph’s Health Centre Guelph
- St. Joseph’s Lifecare Centre Brantford & Stedman Community Hospice
- St. Joseph’s Home Care
- Niagara Health
- Hamilton Regional Laboratory Medicine Program
- McMaster University
- Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health
- Guelph Assessment Centre
- Hamilton Public Health
- Brant County Health Unit
- Niagara Regional Public Health
- PHO Lab
- Ontario Public Health
- Ministry of Health & Ministry of Long-Term Care
St. Joseph’s Lifecare Centre is in line to get a $200,000 in one-time funding from the city for the operation of the Stedman Community Hospice.
Council’s operations and administration committee unanimously backed a resolution this week to grant the money after a pitch was made by Olga Consorti, president of St. Joseph’s Lifecare Foundation.
Council will consider final approval on July 24.
The funding will help the hospice – founded in 2004, and one of 25 such facilities in Ontario – provide programs and services from the moment of diagnosis of a life-limiting malady, through their illness and grief journey.
“While the aesthetics of our beautiful facility provides home-like comforts, the unparalleled hospice care is what sets us apart,” Consorti told councillors.
“We pride ourselves on being trailblazers in the province, being the fifth residential hospice to open in Ontario and a whole host of firsts, including the launch of our community outreach and our horticultural programs, among others.”
The hospice’s 10-bed Hankinson House provides round-the-clock care for anyone with three months or less left to live.
It provides a community outreach program that sees a team of professionals visit homes of patients in Brantford and Brant County. Outreach also is provided to Six Nations and Haldimand and Norfolk counties.
Councillors were told that the hospice has handled more than 450,000 in-home visits and consultations, resulting in thousands of emergency room diversions, better access to care and millions of dollars in savings to the health-care system.
Since the Ontario government funds only a portion of the hospice’s programs and services, the foundation carries on a fundraising campaign to meet the facility’s $3-million-plus annual budget.
Brant County council earlier this year donated $100,000.
“I’m delighted that council unanimously supported this funding,” said Coun. John Utley.
“That’s a strong recognition of the work that hospices do in communities for those who area in the last stages of life. The Stedman Community Hospice is a worldclass facility and a jewel in our community.”