Quick thinking and tight teamwork by dedicated staff at Mount Sinai Hospital and the Jewish General Hospital were crucial in granting a wish for a dying patient: To spend her final weeks in comfort in a bed that best suited her needs.
Fulfilling the request was all the more difficult, because it came on Friday, May 19, just as the Victoria Day weekend was about to begin. But that evening, the woman in her mid-50s finally breathed a sigh of relief, as she eased into the bed at Mount Sinai. It was in this bed that she died a month later.
“She was so appreciative of everything that was done for her, and on such short notice,” says Carol Steadman, Administrative Processes Specialist for the Volunteers of Mount Sinai Hospital and the MAB-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre. “Whenever I visited her, all she could talk about was that bed. It gave her such peace.”
What Ms. Steadman also found so encouraging was the immediate cooperation of staff. “As soon as I explained what I needed, then—bang!—they got going.”
When the patient first arrived at Mount Sinai from the JGH, she felt that her bed, though perfectly suitable for palliative care patients, did not provide the same comfort that she had experienced before her transfer. At the JGH, she had lain in a Linet bed, sometimes known as “the Cadillac of hospital beds,” whose mattress’ firmness can be adjusted to accommodate an individual’s weight and preferences.
For this reason, the patient submitted a request to Magic Moments, a Mount Sinai program that fulfills wishes for palliative care patients whose prognosis for survival is three months or less. This wish was far from ordinary, says Ms. Steadman, “but we try to fulfill all of these requests quickly, because the patient’s time is limited.”
As luck would have it, Jacki Raboy Thaw, a Nurse Coordinator in the Medical Surgical Intensive Care Unit at the JGH, knew of a Linet bed that was vacant. But could it be moved on the eve of a holiday weekend?
Ms. Thaw placed another call and got prompt agreement from Elliott Silverman, who is based at the JGH and serves as Director of Purchasing and Logistics for CIUSSS West-Central Montreal. “I heard from Jacki around 11:00 in the morning on that Friday,” he recalls, “and what sticks in my mind is that she said the bed was needed not the next week, not sometime soon, but that very day.”
Mr. Silverman worked closely with Isaac Maman, Chief of Logistics – Receiving and Warehousing, to arrange for the bed to be moved from the ICU to the JGH loading dock. At the same time, François Lemieux, Chief of Logistics – Transport, contacted a company that could take the bed to Mount Sinai.
But, to his dismay, the transport service sent a minivan that was too small to accommodate a load as large as a Linet bed. So Mr. Lemieux hit the phones again and finally found a truck that could do the job, at no extra cost. The bed finally left the JGH at 6:53 p.m. and arrived at Mount Sinai about 20 minutes later.
“What made it so wonderful,” Ms. Thaw recalls, “was not having to jump through hoops or come up against barriers in giving this patient what she wanted and needed. As soon as we asked, staff offered to help as much as they could.”
Similarly gratifying to Mr. Silverman was the determination of members of staff in both CIUSSS facilities to work as a single team to enhance the patient’s experience.
He says this incident also drives home the point that Purchasing and Logistics, like other departments that have no direct, hands-on contact with healthcare users, often makes a significant difference in the lives of those who require care.
“People sometimes forget that, in our own way, we do care for patients,” he explains. “It’s true that we move boxes all day, but it’s our way of providing critical support to those members of staff who administer the medications and apply the dressings.
“This particular case was especially rewarding, because it gave us a chance to be more closely and directly involved in making a patient feel better. As soon as we got the call, we dropped everything to help her. We never got to meet her and we never even found out her name, but it was worth every minute of effort to give her those extra minutes of comfort.”
To my colleagues at the CIUSS,
I would like to announce that as of December 27th I will be retiring from the JGH and the palliative care service. I had left the HERZL family practice centre last July.
Thus ends forty three wonderful years of service and teaching at the Jewish General Hospital.
I will be remaining as medical director of Sante Cannabis, working two days per week, thus this will be
my progressive retirement program until further notice.
Happy and healthy New Year to all,
It has been a privilege being a part of this amazing organization for all these years,
Dr. Michael Dworkind MDCM.CCFP.FCFP.
founder of palliative care JGH.Consult/home care services,
Associate professor of Family Medicine and Palliative Care