St John’s Hospice COVID-19 update
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, we are all having to make adjustments in our lives – and this is true for the day-to-day operation of St John’s Hospice, too.
While St John and St Elizabeth Hospital has become an extension of the NHS to help meet the burgeoning demands placed on health care providers, we are doing everything we can to ensure the exceptional care and compassion provided by St John’s Hospice continues to run smoothly.
Special considerations must be taken for the vulnerable patients who access our palliative care, and we are taking a number of steps to ensure their safety and their comfort during this difficult time.
Hospice visiting restrictions
From Monday 15th of June we will be relaxing our visiting restrictions in the Hospice. The new visiting restrictions are as follows:
- Each patient will be allowed 2 visitors per day.
- Each visitor will be allowed to stay for a maximum of 2 hours.
- The visitors will not be allowed to visit at the same time.
- All visitors will be expected to wear face masks and be appropriately distanced.
- The 2 nominated visitors will remain constant throughout the patients stay i.e. the patient cannot have two visitors one day and then two different visitors the next day.
Occupational therapy, physiotherapy and social work to build morale
Our dedicated team of therapists have been screening patients prior to home visits and only seeing urgent cases using Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). However, we understand that many of our patients will be feeling isolated, so we have been ringing outpatients to keep their spirits up by providing emotional support. We are also exploring virtual wellbeing activities such as group relaxation exercises to help foster a sense of community, and even sending out weekly craft and care packages to ensure patients don’t miss out on day centre activities.
Meanwhile, our social work support has become more significant than ever in reducing anxiety and building emotional resilience. All our service leaders are working entirely remotely by supporting vulnerable families using video conference calls.
Temporary closure of the Day Centre
We have taken the precautionary measure of closing our Day Care Unit to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission among this particularly vulnerable group of outpatients. As mentioned above, all Day Care Unit patients continue to receive medical and emotional support remotely in the form of telephone and video calls from our friendly, committed staff members.
Each outpatient is called twice a week so we can check how they’re doing – not only to ensure their wellbeing, but to relieve some of the strain on the NHS by taking care of vulnerable individuals.
Extra measures at our Inpatient Unit (IPU)
Staff on the IPU are wearing PPE where necessary – including visors, face masks and gloves – to help fight the spread of coronavirus. We are monitoring our inpatients’ symptoms closely and visits are now limited, but accepted on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of the nurse in charge. We are also being careful to check if new patients are symptomatic prior to admission by working closely with referrers in local hospitals and the community.
At the same time, we recognise the impact the pandemic is having on our staff members’ environment and workload, so we are increasing the number of counselling sessions available to staff members, as well as putting up posters with wellbeing and relaxation techniques to lift their spirits.
Since so many patients are unable to see any visitors during this time, our IPU Consultant Dr Gemma has set up a hospice hearts initiative; knitting pairs of handmade hearts one of which to give to the patient and one to their chosen family member as a reminder of togetherness & love in the face of adversity.
Our community team continues to nurse tirelessly
Our community team’s work to protect their terminally ill patients is not stopping, though we are being cautious in not seeing patients unless they are critical – particularly in the case of patients with respiratory issues such as COPD and lung cancer.
We continue to care for all of our patients, and are not transferring them to the NHS – even if they test positive for COVID-19. However, patients displaying symptoms of coronavirus are asked to call NHS 111, while non-urgent cases are receiving support calls from our nursing team.
Hospice @ Home carers are continuing their work on the frontline, supporting terminally ill patients in the community. All carers are wearing PPE on their visits, and are receiving daily phone calls from our coordinator to check for any new symptoms in patients.
Hospice ambulance service responding to patients
A proportion of our ambulances are distributing much-needed groceries and medication to our particularly vulnerable outpatients. At the same time, others may be redeployed to offer their services as part of St John and St Elizabeth Hospital’s effort to support the NHS – bringing COVID-19 patients to our hospital in order to relieve strain on the NHS.
All non-essential staff are working from home
Hospice fundraising and administrative roles are now operating remotely in accordance with recommendations from Public Health England. Naturally, all our staff remain thoroughly committed to ensuring our hospice patients continue to receive the outstanding care they received prior to the pandemic.
We have cancelled and postponed many hospice fundraising events putting us under pressure to ensure we can deliver our vital services in the future. For this reason St John’s will need the support and commitment from our local community more than ever before.