KEITH Wood, the former Ireland and Lions hooker, launched an end-of-life care programme that is being rolled out in hospitals in the Mid-West in an effort to ensure that dying patients receive the best possible care.
Hospitals in the region are now part of the Network of Hospice Friendly Hospitals (HFH) which has been developed over the last five years and includes 25 acute and over 30 community hospitals.-The HFH Programme is in operation in the Mid Western Acute Hospitals Group in Limerick, Nenagh, Ennis, the Regional Maternity Hospital, the Regional Orthopaedic Hospital, Croom, and St Ita’s Community Hospital in Newcastle West.
In the case of the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Dooradoyle, there are an average of 450 deaths each year from causes ranging from road traffic accidents involving teenagers to complications arising from respiratory complaints among 95 year olds. Up to 4,500 bereaved people would be affected by these deaths. Mr Wood officially launched the programme, which aims to support frontline staff who are delivering end-of-life care – sometimes in very challenging conditions.
“According to popular belief, an acute hospital is somewhere where people with various complaints go to get better and a hospice is a place where people go to die. Most of us want to die in our own homes. But most people now die in some form of hospital and 48 per cent of us will die in an acute hospital. The challenge facing the acute hospital system is how to train and assist all staff to provide a quality service for all patients at the end of life and also to help their families to cope,” he said.
Frank Gunter, whose sister-in-law died in MWRH Dooradoyle in January 2012, said: “This was a most difficult time for the family, experiencing a tumult of feelings, denial, fatalism and helplessness and I’m sure that unconsciously we probably were a nuisance to the staff. But we were never made to feel that way. The medical and nursing staff were kind, understanding, respectful in all their dealings with us and they kept us informed every step of the way. They provided a safe environment for family to express their grief and sorrow.”
The HFH Programme involves training all staff in end-of-life care via monthly training sessions, using practical resources such as Family Handover bags to return the belongings of a loved one who has died, a specially designed ward altar and trolley drape, using the specially designed End-of-Life Spiral on the wards which alert people that a person is dying or has died and implementing a protocol to ensure that a sympathy card is sent out to families two weeks after a loved one has died in the hospital
End of Life Care co-ordinator at the Mid Western Regional Hospital, Miriam McCarthy, commented: “What it boils down to is that we are trying to ensure the best possible care for the patient when they are reaching the end of their life’s journey, so that patients die with dignity and respect. It’s not as easy as it sounds in a busy acute hospital with all its hustle and bustle but staff have shown tremendous interest and families have also appreciated the initiatives that have taken place since we began in January 2011. We are organising a remembrance service in June for the families of those who have died in the previous twelve months, and developing plans for the physical upgrading of facilities. End of life care matters, and we are working hard to ensure that our hospital culture, the way we do things around here, reflects this.”
Sharon Foley, CEO of the Irish Hospice Foundation, said: “The basic aim of the HFH Programme is to put hospice principles into hospital practice. We are delighted at the positive reaction of hospital staff in the Mid-West to the various initiatives that have been introduced. We hope that patients and families will feel the benefit of the training and education when it matters most to them.”