A safety-first approach enables St. Joseph’s to host in-person conversations between clients and a family member after many weeks of separation

Friday, June 5, 2020 — Guelph, ON – An enchanting, garden-like space provides a stunning backdrop for emotional reunions between family members, and patients or residents at St. Joseph’s Health Centre Guelph after a long separation.

St. Joseph’s closed to visitors on Mach 14 following guidance from Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health. Since the closure, St. Joseph’s staff have helped residents, patients and their families remain connected by supporting almost 700 virtual visits over Skype and FaceTime. The health centre has also remained in close contact with families by providing weekly updates.

“The physical separation has been difficult for our residents and patients, as well as for their families,” says David Wormald, President of St. Joseph’s Health Centre Guelph. “We have been helping families remain connected to their loved ones in our health centre through virtual visit s during the pandemic; nonetheless, we knew it was time to consider how to move from virtual visits to in-person conversations.”

With the warmer weather here, St. Joseph’s has transformed an outdoor space near its main entrance to a “Family Conversation Centre”.

A family member sits on one side of the comfortable, stylish, garden-like space with flowers, statues and ivy. A see-through screen separates the family member from the resident or patient, as a precautionary measure to help ensure residents remain safe. The family member can speak with their loved one through the transparent screen, but they cannot touch or pass items through.

The greenery provides some protection from the elements and offers privacy for the conversations.

Other infection prevention and control measures have been implemented to support the outdoor visits; measures include screening family members by phone prior to the visit to ensure they do not have symptoms of a respiratory illness, making hand sanitizer available for the family member to use and thoroughly cleaning the area between visits.

Staff remain on hand during the visit to provide support and facilitate the visit as needed. Voice amplifiers are available to assist any family member or client who has hearing loss.

“Much thought and planning has gone into making the outdoor space feel cozy and inviting, while taking into consideration infection prevention and control measures to protect residents and patients,” said Christel Mueller, Director of Strategy and Client Experience at St. Joseph’s Health Centre Guelph. “Our team looked at the outdoor visits both from the perspective of our residents and patients, as well as the family member who would be visiting.”

Outdoor visits started on May 22 with a small number of families. These families provided invaluable feedback to St. Joseph’s and helped our team make adjustments to improve the experience of the visits for everyone.

These outdoor visits are doing a world of good for families and clients at our health centre. Family members describe the anticipation of seeing their loved one after so many weeks of being physically apart, the tears of joy seeing each other again and the relief that their loved one looks well and cared for.

“We are very proud to be one of the first facilities to enable these in-person visits and will continue to work within our directives to continue connecting families with their loved ones at our health centre,” added Mr. Wormald.