By Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative
Visitation at the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance will continue to look different even after the COVID-19 pandemic is declared over and restrictions can be lifted.
In August, CKHA introduced the concept of “care partners” to ensure the hospitals’ most vulnerable patients have access to a consistent visitor presence, Lori Marshall, president and CEO, CKHA said.
Care partners are defined by patients as someone who provides them with critical and often ongoing personal, social, psychological and physical support.
Care partners are distinct from casual visitors because “they know their loved one best” and are uniquely attuned to subtle changes in their behaviour or status, according to CKHA’s description.
“ I think what’s important is that we probably, in the future, will always now distinguish between those individuals in the organization; the patients who require that very consistent support from an individual who is close to them,” Marshall said.
Marshall said the concept was first introduced in the Rehabilitation and Complex Continuing Care Units at the Chatham hospital.
Care partners are allowed to visit between 10 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. because vulnerable patients have longer lengths of stay and often need more support with their care needs.
“We’ve completed all of those units now and we’re in the process of rolling out that concept to the rest of acute care,” she said.
Marshall said it is unlikely CKHA will go back to the level of visiting that they had in the past, pre-COVID pandemic.
Previously, there was a lot of open access to the facilities such as individuals who could access the hospital for things such as Tim Hortons, or students using the cafeteria.
“We are taking a thoughtful approach to supporting the patients in our organization, particularly those with long stays and balancing that with the need to maintain social distancing to promote the safety and wellbeing of our patients, families, staff and physicians.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, only one visitor is allowed for patients who are actively dying; outpatients who require support due to severe disability, dementia or mobility issues; paediatric patients; and women in labour or post-partum.
Marshall said once the single-care partner is rolled out throughout the entire organization, they will increase the allowance to two care partners per patient.
She is also anticipating further growth post-pandemic, which would allow a patient to have multiple care partners that will continue to be distinct from a general visitor.
“We think that that gives us probably the most flexibility, based on what may be transpiring in our community at any given time.”