June 6, 2011
LAUREEN MCMAHON
THE B.C. CATHOLIC

VANCOUVER — If you became too ill to speak or were in an accident and were rendered unconscious and admitted to hospital, how would anyone know that you were a Catholic and that you want a priest called?

The Catholic Health Association of B.C. has answered this question by creating an ID card which easily fits into a wallet and clearly states “I Am Catholic.”

The initiative, said Executive Director Susan House, was launched by the CHABC board of directors in 2003 to instruct medical personnel searching for identification to call a priest if an injured or sick Catholic patient is unable to communicate.

Catholic ID cards, House stressed, are crucial for individuals taken to hospitals within the Fraser Health Authority boundaries.

HOSPITAL CUTBACKS

The reason? In November 2009 Fraser Health, which is responsible for providing patient care from Burnaby to Hope, terminated the jobs of 13 spiritual care practitioners working in their acute care hospitals.

“This was a tremendous loss,” said House. “These individuals were responsible for identifying patients by their faith affiliation and for ensuring that, upon admittance to hospital, they were offered the appropriate pastoral and spiritual care.

The cut has created a void in information given to patients when they are admitted to hospitals and has led to the demise of holistic care in the Fraser Health hospitals, she said.

During a presentation to the Fraser Health Board, CHABC president Richard Folka and House outlined the significance of pastoral care for the sick and dying.

“Research clearly demonstrates,” said House, “that individuals who are spiritually healthy use fewer medications, have faster healing times and shorter hospital stays.”

The CHABC, she added, is not just concerned about Catholic patients, but all those who want and need pastoral care upon admittance to hospital.