As part of our plan to develop a patient-centred health care system, Sun Country Health Region has created a group called the Patient/Family Advisory Council. This group is made up of patients and residents, their family representatives and staff advisers. It is intended to help health care providers hear the patient's needs at every step, and redesign health care so the patient comes first.
The obvious question is why is this not always the case now - that patients come first - and how will this Council help it change?
One of the reasons is that over the decades, nurses, doctors, therapists and other staff who provide your health care often found it most efficient to build the system to suit their professional needs.
One example will explain. When patients are booked for tests in a hospital, they may all be asked to come at the same time in the morning. That's for our convenience, to make sure the doctor and nurses doing the procedures can take one patient after another without interruption. It often was seen as the most efficient use of surgery rooms and doctors/nurses' time. It ensured patients were waiting in line in case some were finished quicker than expected.
The result is some patients will go in immediately and some will wait a few hours for their procedure. Those patients and their families become very familiar with the reading material in the waiting room.
A patient-first approach would stagger the times for patients to be admitted. Some would be asked to arrive at 7 a.m. and others at 8, 9 and 10 a.m. The doctors and nurses still have the patients when they need them but the patients don't sit around waiting.
Simple change, right?
It might not have happened without some patient advisory committee somewhere telling the health care system the old ways are no longer acceptable.
It's like the strict visiting hours I remember as a young person in health care. Heaven forbid that a husband would overextend his stay while visiting with a wife who just gave birth, even if he lived 40 miles away and it was seeding time!
The health system got rid of that kind of rigidity years ago but there are a lot of other practices and attitudes that still need to go. The Patient Advisory Council will help us identify and change them. It will help us ensure that we always provide care that is respectful and dignified, that we communicate with patients/resident and clients, and that they participate in their care and we collaborate with them.
The Patient Advisory Council in SCHR has 12 volunteer members sitting on its steering committee and half a dozen other members who serve on regional staff committees. They review some of our brochures and handouts before they are distributed to make sure the information is understandable to non-medical people. They provide advice to our committees about which services should change to be more responsive to patient needs. They tell their individual stories to decision-makers to help them understand service flaws - or new needs. They are a very welcome addition to SCHR.
If you are interested in helping us, please call Kelly Eddy, Lead for Patient and Family Centred Care, 306-842- 8226.