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Provincial government eliminated funding for spiritual care programming in health region facilities

CBC News Posted: Sep 26, 2017 5:16 PM CT 

Cuts to the spiritual care programs at Saskatchewan hospitals will take effect this Friday, which has faith-based groups hurrying to put a plan in place to serve those in need.

Staff will no longer be employed through the Spiritual Care Program at any Saskatchewan hospitals. Patients, in many cases, will be responsible for reaching out to their own spiritual care providers if they want a visit while they are in hospital.

"I worry about those who aren't affiliated to a church," said Denise Seguin Horth, a former chaplain intern with the Regina Qu'appelle Health Region's spiritual care department.

"I worry about those that are spiritual or even if they aren't. I worry about anyone who might need support in the hospital and has no family, no one to reach out to, and they are alone or scared."

Denise Horth has worked as a chaplain intern in Regina. She says she was devastated by the cuts. (Nichole Huck/CBC)

In its March budget, the provincial government eliminated funding for spiritual care programming in health region facilities.

The RQHR said it is making arrangements that will be in place by Sept. 29 to help patients access spiritual services.

"RQHR is committed to facilitating patients' and residents' continued access to faith community-based spiritual care providers and is working with faith communities on details related to this," the health region said in a statement, emailed to CBC.

"Spiritual care providers will continue to be welcome in our facilities. Patients and families are welcome to engage and arrange for services from their own spiritual care providers while receiving care in a regional facility."

The health region said it cut fewer than 10 jobs, but would not give a specific number.

Advocate worried about people slipping through the cracks

Nick Jesson, an ecumenical officer in Regina, said, "I don't understand how they could have thought we could continue to engage in care of patients and their spiritual needs if we don't have those staff within the system who facilitate that."

He is part of a group representing more than 20 faith-based traditions who are worried about how they will access patients in hospitals. At first, Jesson said they were trying to get the government's decision reversed. Now, they're trying to find a way to work with the new system. 

"Our fear is there are going to be people who simply get missed," Jesson said.

He said he was visiting the Regina General Hospital on Monday. Out of 450 beds, about 150 people had requested a visits from the chaplain.

​In the past, hospital workers would go door-to-door and ask those who didn't appear on a faith list if they wanted a spiritual visit and about two-thirds would say 'yes,' Jesson said. He's worried it's those people who will now get missed.
Some faiths have specific health needs. Sometimes, patients need to consult with religious leaders and they don't always have that opportunity before being admitted into the hospital.

Jesson hopes that when the new health authority takes over on Dec. 4, a new system will be established throughout the province.