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Hospital Chaplains Still On The Job

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REGINA…Hospital chaplains in Saskatchewan, remain on the job but the process to obtain their services is awkward and not always successful, said Nick Jesson, of the Regina Archdiocese.  He is the Archdiocesan ecumenical coordinator and one of a team of people trying to get the Spiritual care office restored to the health district. The office acted as the coordination centre for the hospital chaplains. “It used to be when patients were being admitted they were asked if they required the services of a chaplain and if so their faith denomination. Lists for each denomination were prepared and given to the spiritual care office and made available to the chaplains of the different faith denominations.  It was simple and straight forward,” said Jesson. Now, if a patient wants the services of a chaplain, and Jesson emphasised the denominational chaplains, Anglican, Lutheran Roman Catholic, United and one multi-faith chaplain, are available, the patient has to ask staff on the hospital wards to make the call to a specific chaplain and that isn’t always successful. Jesson said the staff in the spiritual care office were hospital staff and it was those positions that were cut.

There was also concern from some staff that asking a patient for their religious preference might be a privacy issue but the privacy commissioners office said that’s 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.    Another issue identified by Jesson is that new Patients may not request a chaplain visit until later in their stay when a more serious diagnosis may surface and the patient may feel the need to talk with a chaplain.

The denominational chaplains are funded by their faith communities and remain on the job. The multi-faith chaplain serves all the Regina hospitals. That position is funded by Living Sky, a non-profit group. Jesson said with the elimination of the Spiritual Care Office, some front-line hospital staff are informing patients that chaplains are no longer available, “And that’s not true.”  Hospital staff have to fill out all kinds of paperwork and the group is trying to have at least one of those forms include a question of the patient for chaplain services. There was also concern from some staff that asking a patient for their religious preference might be a privacy issue but the privacy commissioners office said that’s not the case. “if spiritual care including chaplain services were made part of clinical care the information would not be shared outside the hospital and privacy would not be an issue, said Jesson.   

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