Assisi Hospice

Assisi Hospice shares its experience of caregiving through Covid-19

published by Faithful Amidst Trials, Catholic News on February 21, 2021

2020 was a year of profound uncertainties and disruption across every aspect of life for our Assisi team members and for the patients and families we serve. We thank our Lord for His protection and grace which saw us through the year.

As we reflect on 2020, these words from the hymn ‘May the Lord Find Us Faithful’ written by Mac Lynch comes to mind:

God has not given us the spirit of fear,

But has given us the strength to obey.

With power and sound mind,

With love the unfailing kind,

Oh, be not ashamed of His Way.

May the Lord find us faithful,

May His word be our banner held high.

May the Lord find us faithful,

Everyday though we live, though we die.

Privileged to serve

During the most difficult months in the first half of 2020, we came together to ensure that our service levels to patients and families fundamentally remained unchanged, despite the necessary exacting control measures and directives from the Ministry of Health (MOH).

We admitted more patients for our Inpatient Service which helped to free up beds in the acute hospitals for Covid-19 patients. Our Home Care service became even more important during the Circuit Breaker as community movement was curtailed, but our visits continued unabated with strict measures in place, and we became the rare and important visitors that our patients received during that difficult period. We were glad that we could help keep our patients at home so that they did not need to seek treatment at hospitals.

Our Day Care Centre had to close for two months due to the Circuit Breaker, but was whitelisted to continue to support a few patients who had no care options during the day. Regular calls were made by our Care Team and they updated themselves on patients’ needs, family circumstances and dynamics – providing specific and timely interventions. Personalised “therapy packages” consisting of art materials and video sessions of music and art therapy and rehabilitative exercises were made available for circulation to our patients as part of their clinical care plan.

We thank God for the privilege to be able to serve those in need of care, especially during this pandemic. Through our Inpatient, Home Care and Day Care services, the number of patients we cared for in 2020 increased by more than 20% compared to 2019.

Protection for patients and staff

We are also grateful to God for keeping us safe and ensuring no disruption to our provision of care.

To maintain the service levels that we wanted for our patients and families, the team took on strict unprecedented precautionary measures and changed clinical care processes, for example, making adjustments to our Home Care Team’s patient management protocol and escalation process to manage patients with symptoms similar to Covid-19 – many home palliative care patients have symptoms similar to Covid-19 symptoms like cough, shortness of breath, fever, sore throat. We centred our efforts on ensuring continued compassionate care for our patients and their loved ones, and everyone’s safety.

Provision of resources

We thank God for colleagues who were faithful and steadfast in serving our patients and their loved ones. Our colleagues took on additional workloads and adapted well to the added control measures so that we could maintain service levels and access for patients and loved ones. During the initial months of Covid-19, when manpower was tight due to staff serving Stay Home Notices or Leaves of Absence, our staff gave up days-off and annual-leave days to take on the added patient load. Our Home Care colleagues bravely stepped into patients’ homes with infection control measures in place, and managed the discomfort of wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) to serve.

Staff also endured being apart from their loved ones. Our colleagues, some who are foreigners, found the travel restrictions particularly tough – most will not see their families, including babies and children, in their homeland for one to two years. When the border with Johor Bahru closed, our Malaysian support staff who used to commute daily moved into Assisi Hospice to stay in a re-purposed ward.

After many years of championing by the sector, our financial needs were also provided for – MediShield Life coverage was extended to Inpatient Hospice Palliative Care Service from Apr 1, 2020. This helped in part to shield our patients and Assisi from the economic impact of the pandemic.

Prayer for the new year

As we embrace the new year, it is our prayer that God will continue to bless our collective efforts in our ministry.

“For each and every one of us serving in the Hospice, we ask for an increase in the virtues of faith, hope and love to constantly guide our every thought, word and deed. We also ask for deeper gifts of counsel, knowledge and wisdom to direct and inspire us in our ministry.” (Extract from the Prayers of the Faithful during our Thanksgiving Mass on Jan 11, 2021)

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