Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 19, 2006
Patients get chance for at-home pastoral care
New project out to link discharged patients with pastoral care workers
By RAMON GONZALEZ
"There are people who live all by themselves, who are very lonely and would like somebody from the Church to stroll by."
- John MacDonald
Hundreds of people in the archdiocese are trained in pastoral care and are willing to visit anyone who needs it. In the past four years the Office of Pastoral Care has trained nearly 400 parish pastoral care workers.
MacDonald and the Catholic chaplains at the University Hospital developed the project but the original push came from Archbishop Thomas Collins.
"Shortly after he came here he addressed my ministry in health care with the statement that there are people falling between the cracks, 'Let's see what we can do to prevent that happening.' One of the cracks is when people come home from the hospital and nobody knows," MacDonald explained.
Giving the card to patients is ideal because, due to privacy legislation, hospitals can't give patients' names out, MacDonald said. "When you give this card to the individual, the individual can contact us."
MacDonald doesn't know how long the project will be on trial at the University Hospital but he said it will eventually be offered in all Catholic hospitals in the archdiocese.
Gordon Self, Caritas' vice president for mission, ethics and spirituality, likes the project and said Caritas will likely adopt it in the near future. "My idea is that we will be adopting it in some shape or form once we work out the details."
Until that happens, Caritas' chaplains will continue connecting patients to their parishes upon their discharge home on a case-by-case basis, Self said.
"That's something that's always happened but what John (MacDonald) is proposing is something that is a little bit more formalized, like a 1-800 number that streamlines the process. It's just another way of facilitating that connecting and it's good, it's a good idea helping to connect people to a faith community."
Self likes the fact the project gives the Catholic patient the responsibility to make the call but he noted his staff doesn't see only Catholic patients.
"There may be other patient populations that may want to be connected to - maybe a Lutheran Church or to a synagogue or mosque," he said. "That's something we have to look at."
Mike Shea, the CEO of the Alberta Catholic Health Corporation, also endorsed the pastoral care project, calling it "a good initiative on the part of the Edmonton Archdiocese."
He said providing pastoral care to patients after discharge is important, especially in today's environment when patients spend such short periods of time in hospital.
MacDonald said pastoral care workers at the University Hospital were to start distributing the cards to Catholic patients in mid-February.
"The Archdiocese of Edmonton is pleased to be able to offer you pastoral care after you leave the hospital," the card reads. "If you would like to be contacted by a pastoral care community worker from your parish after hospital discharge, please phone the Catholic Pastoral Centre at 469-1010, ext. 250."
That's the extension of Cheryl Meyer, secretary of the Office of Pastoral Care and Life Initiatives. Meyer has the numbers of all the pastoral care teams in the archdiocese. When a patient calls, she'll contact the patient's parish.
This project could affect many people in the hospitals who may be marginal in their faith but now that they are sick they want to reconnect with their faith community, MacDonald said.
"It may also be an opportunity for the faith community to reconnect with them and show them the loving, caring side of the Church's ministry in pastoral care."
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