Doctor questions St. Joseph’s Hospital’s SGO

St. Joseph
St. Joseph's Hospital in Comox
— image credit: File photo

Terry Farrell

Record staff

Another Comox Valley doctor has gone public with her concerns about St. Joseph’s Hospital’s policies.

On the heels of Drs. Jonathan Reggler and  Barbara Fehlau expressing their displeasure with the Catholic-owned hospital’s stance on Medical Assistance in Death (MAiD), Dr. Tanja Daws has sent a letter to the Comox Valley Record.

Daws pointed out what she sees as numerous hypocrisies in the hospital’s Strategic Goals and Objectives, when dealing with the MAiD issue.

“As a physician who works at St Joseph’s, I am reminded of the hospital’s pledge - ‘Care with Compassion’  - daily,” she wrote. “It is displayed on the walls, and the Strategic Goals and Objectives, outlining compassionate care, are on posters in the elevators, stairwells and halls. I read these every now and again, but have become more perplexed by them over the last few months.”

In her letter, she challenged each of the four main points of the SGO, those being quality, safety, innovation, and people.

“How does St Joseph’s define care with compassion? Let us examine the goals and objectives of quality: ‘Deliver outstanding care with kindness and compassion to those we serve...’”

Daws said forcing someone to be transferred out of the hospital to receive MAiD “ neither kind, nor compassionate, nor medically necessary.

“Quality goals and strategies also include to ‘Strengthen the continuum of care to support timely access to services and smooth patient flow for all patients’ as well as ‘Provide an exceptional health care experience through development and provision of patient-and-family-centered care.’ That is of no comfort to a patient who waited hours for an ambulance as a low priority, to be sent home for MAiD. Knowing when death is coming, being prepared and then having to wait hours, is sheer torture - both to the patient and their family.”

(Scroll down to see complete, unabridged letter)

St. Joseph’s Hospital president and CEO Jane Murphy said the quality of care at St. Joe’s is second-to-none, and follow-up correspondence received is testament to the hospital’s professionalism.

“Care with compassion is our value statement and is delivered in all aspects of care for all patients and residents,” Murphy said, in a written statement, responding to Daws’ concerns. “St. Joseph’s cares for thousands and thousands of patients and residents every year ... In fact, St. Joseph’s receives many, many expressions of gratitude from patients and residents for the compassionate care they have received. This is a credit to our staff, volunteers and physicians.”

(Scroll down to see complete, unabridged response)

When it comes to safety, the St. Joseph SGO states a goal to ‘Continue our journey of cultural safety for all.’

“We may have come a long way in terms of ethnicity, but St. Joseph’s lacks severely on recognizing our culture around death,” said Daws, in her letter.

In regards to the points of innovation and people, Daws quotes the SGO as having the goal to ‘demonstrate good stewardship of resources through enhancing our culture of accountability.’

“I honestly do not know what this really means, but here is what it does not: Suggesting transferring a patient to Nanaimo or Campbell River hospital to have an IV inserted (and then come back to the Valley) if the physicians feel they will not be able to do it themselves at home due to technical difficulties. (home and community care nursing in our area do not do IVs). To be exact, ‘we would not provide the instruments for MAiD’ is the official answer to a formal request.”

In reference to the “people” area, Daws said staff at St. Joseph’s hospital do not receive any formal MAiD training as employees, are not allowed to talk about it with patients, or prepare for their future at the new hospital, where MAiD will be allowed.

“How is that compassionate care to the patient and family, or fair towards the staff?” she asks.

Murphy refuted Daws’s claims.

“Staff are able to speak to patients requesting MAiD,” said Murphy. “It is absolutely consistent with our values and ethics, and we will support staff on how to respond to such requests.

“Although St. Joseph’s and its personnel are not able to participate and assist in any actions or omissions that are directly intended to cause death, the values of St. Joseph’s nevertheless ethically oblige staff to explore and ascertain the nature of the person’s expressed request.”

Daws concluded her letter by suggesting the hospital’s current policies show severe shortcomings to patients, at their most vulnerable time.

“The prognosis is grave,” said Daws. “St. Joseph’s policy leads to the hospital abandoning patients who are seeking MAiD at the time they most need care and compassion, just before their deaths. People with already unbearable suffering, whose death is meant to be peaceful and dignified, are the victims of dogma and one religion’s interpretation of what compassion is. And for what it is worth, the patients I see for MAiD are not affected by my religion. What is important is what they believe and hold on to.”

Murphy said the hospital continues to work to find a balance, in respect to the legalities of MAiD  (Bill C-14) and the policies of the Catholic-owned institution.

“We understand there are many different views on end-of-life care including opinions towards Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD),” said Murphy. “This legislation is new, and we work in partnership and humility in finding the balance in respecting patients’ requests for MAiD, and in our being true to our values and ethics. We will continue to explore and dialogue with partners and the community as we move through this new milieu.”



Feb. 16 Dr. Daws Letter by CVRecord on Scribd

Feb. 16 Murphy Responses by CVRecord on Scribd

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