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Hospital chaplains still on the job

Frank Flegel


REGINA — Hospital chaplains in Saskatchewan remain on the job, but the process to obtain their services is awkward and not always successful. Nick Jesson is the Regina Archdiocese Ecumenical Co-ordinator and one of a team of people trying to get the Spiritual Care Office restored in the health district.

The office acted as the co-ordination centre for hospital chaplains. It used to be that, when patients were being admitted to hospital, they were asked if they desired the services of a chaplain and, if so, their faith community. Lists of patients requesting chaplaincy services were then prepared for each denomination and given to the Spiritual Care Office, whose staff made the information available to the various chaplains.

“It was simple and straightforward,” said Jesson.

Previously, he explained, the staff of the Spiritual Care Office were hospital employees, but those positions were cut in the last provincial budget. Now, if patients want the services of a chaplain, the only avenue available to them is to ask hospital staff on the ward to make the call to a chaplain for them. This is problematic for the patient.

With the elimination of the Spiritual Care Office, some front-line hospital staff are telling patients that chaplains are no longer available. “That,” said Jesson, “is not true.” He emphasized that denominational chaplains of the Anglican, Roman Catholic, and United churches, plus one multifaith chaplain, all remain available.

There was also some concern among hospital staff that asking patients for their religious affiliation might be a privacy issue, but the Privacy Commissioner’s office said that that is not the case.

“If spiritual care were made part of clinical care, the information would not be shared outside the hospital, and privacy would not be an issue,” said Jesson.

The denominational chaplains are funded by their faith communities and remain on the job. The multifaith chaplain serves all Regina hospitals. That position is funded by Living Sky, a non-profit group — part of the larger group trying to have the chaplaincy office restored and, in the interim, trying to have a document included in the hospital’s paper work that would inform the patient of the chaplains available and for the patient to indicate a request for a visit.

The group is also requesting that chaplain information be placed on the hospital’s closed-circuit television programming.

Representatives of all faith communities comprise the group meeting with the government in an effort to restore the chaplaincy office — so far without success. In the meantime, churches are being encouraged to inform their congregations that chaplains are available, but they have to ask for the service.

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