A new Welcoming Policy programme has been introduced in the Acute Care Wing units of King Edward VII Memorial Hospital (KEMH) this month. The new programme recognizes patients often need the support of close friends and family as well as quality medical care as they recover.

Launched on Monday, 3 July 2017, the programme gives patients control over who can see them and when. Previously, visitors were limited to general visiting hours between noon and 8pm, and visiting outside of those hours was by exception. Now patients are able to select up to two people as official ‘support people’. The designated support people can be in attendance whenever a patient requests 24/7, or stay overnight if a patient wants them to. Furthermore, general visiting hours have been extended an hour earlier from 11am to 8pm for all other friends and family.

Norma Smith – Clinical Director of Medical & Surgical Services at KEMH

Norma Smith, Clinical Director of Medical and Surgical Services, headed up a ‘Patient-Centred Care’ committee comprising clinical staff, the Hospitals Auxiliary of Bermuda and Security to oversee the project. Patients were also surveyed about the new programme before it went live.

Ms Smith comments: “This project is very near and dear to my heart. It is an important step in making people’s experience at KEMH truly patient-centred. The key is that patients are in control of who sees them and when, rather than the hospital. The selected support people are people who patients think will be support them. Support people may or may not be immediate family, and patients can elect to have no additional support people and just keep their visitors to general welcoming hours.”

Patients have the support person programme explained to them on admission to an acute care ward so they can decide whether they want support people and who they will be. Their designated support people receive a temporary ID and are formally noted in the patient’s medical file, although patients can change who their support people are throughout their stay. Factsheets for patients and support people are provided.

Ms Smith added: “Patient support people are there for emotional support. They do not have to be the official next of kin or guardian, as the role is not decision making. Their role is to be available to the people who can provide a calm, loving, supportive presence while they are in hospital. They are not there to direct care, but if the patient wishes, they may be present during doctor consultations.”

Just a few weeks into the project, and already the hospital is receiving positive responses from patients and their families.

One daughter of a patient wrote: “I love the flexibility and my dad was so much more at ease before his procedure. Hope more people take advantage of it.”

One patient wrote: “The new initiative of two 24/7 access visitors is a very good one and I’m sure many people will use it.”

A patient’s daughter who lives in the US and flew in the day before her father’s surgery stated: “It was so good to be able to come straight from the airport that evening, and stay by his bedside until he settled around midnight. He slept better that night and so did I! I am so grateful for this new programme.”

Another lady said: “I wear my support badge with pride, and use it to take my elderly sister the paper on the way to work, just like I do when she is at home! It’s great!”

Ms Smith concluded: “I equate this programme to the discovery of a new piece of equipment that will help patients find comfort and healing. it is heartwarming to know that during those lonely, scary or worrisome times during a hospital stay, patients can have someone of their choosing at their bedside to see them through.”

  • Photos: Courtesy of Bermuda Hospitals Board
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