Right in the Centre – We need an advocate


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

The problems my wife Christine and I had last year with health issues gave us the opportunity to learn new things about our own health and the Manitoba health care system. We have mostly recovered and we are both very thankful. Generally speaking, our health care system is amazing. Sometimes we have delays, especially compared to the United States, but nonetheless, we have an amazing system.

There is one improvement that has been been severely hampered by COVID-19 rules. That improvement is the need for greater adoption of having every patient have an advocate. The health care system is great but it can be difficult to work your way through without somebody along side, be it an extra pair of hands, an extra set of eyes and ears. And most of all, an occasional need to speak up on a patient's behalf.

Especially with a multi-hospital situation and so many staff and shifts, patient details often get missed, usually no big stuff but things get missed. Every parent needs a caring advocate. Could be a spouse, a sibling, a parent or a volunteer, but it needs to happen.

In normal times, that is before COVID, patients in hospitals and residents in care homes would often have a spouse, a child or friend to help out, to "stick up" for them. COVID rules and precautions might have been well-intentioned but the results have been far from good. I personally know of an elderly man who couldn't have any family member visit him for two weeks after he was admitted to the hospital. That process certainly didn't help. He tested positive for COVID upon entering the hospital, placed in an isolation room. Even with these precautions, no visitors were allowed. The family was prepared to have someone be with him 24 hours a day and limit visitors to two and only one at a time. They would have worn protective gowns and masks and been willing to be tested. Not allowed.

There are hundreds of examples where people were more lacking in care than they needed to be, lonelier than they needed to be and in many cases died because of unintended "neglect". Nobody in the health care system wished this situation on anyone. Nobody maliciously set out to cause harm with bad rules but it happened. It shouldn't have but it did. It shouldn't happen again. There were so many things done wrong with COVID that we need to absolutely learn from the mistakes.

Having care home resident or hospital patient advocates is a must. It would make for better care, better results and take stress of the employees. It has to happen along with rules that make more sense.

There is another thing we are thankful for and that is Good Friday and all it stands for. Jesus was born and we celebrate that at Christmas time. But today is Good Friday and, at first glance, it's always been tough for me to see the "Good" part. As we look closer it is indeed "good" that Jesus died on the cross for us and even "better" that he rose on Easter Sunday, a Saviour for all people.

Jesus is often also spoken of as an Advocate. We need an advocate in health care to help people make their way through. Fortunately, Jesus is more than willing to be our Advocate from birth to death and beyond for each of us but Jesus also instructs us be advocates for each other. We must never lose sight of that, especially in health care.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are the writer's personal views and are not to be taken as being the view of the Banner & Press staff.