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Hospital visiting hours to be relaxed in new trial.

Welcoming families and friends as partners in care

June 2018

Hospital visiting hours to be relaxed in new trial.

Hospital visiting hours to be relaxed in new trial.

Family and friends of hospital patients in Sydney Local Health District will be able to visit their loved ones any time of day, with the removal of restricted visiting hours under an innovative new policy that treats them as partners in care.

International research shows the presence and participation of family members and friends during a hospital stay results in a range of benefits for both staff and patients, including a reduction in readmissions and increased consistency of care.

The trial policy will be announced at the District’s inaugural Patient and Family Experience Symposium on June 19, 2018.

District Chief Executive Dr Teresa Anderson said the change will ease the stress and anxiety of families with a loved one in hospital and help the recovery of patients.

'The historical view of strict visiting hours doesn't make sense today with the demands on families', Dr Anderson said.

Making sure we are flexible so that people can visit their loved ones when they finish their shift at work or are able to get a babysitter can remove much of the stress associated with a stay in hospital.

'Partners in care also recognises families are changing and the people most important to a patient may not be blood relatives or official Next of Kin, but close friends and colleagues,' Dr Anderson said.

A pilot program is underway at Balmain Hospital with a view to rolling the policy out to RPA, Concord and Canterbury Hospitals over the coming months.

Visiting hours signage will be adjusted and changes made on wards for staff to trigger conversations with patients, families and friends about how they can participate in care.

In 2015, Deloitte Access Economics estimated that more than 2.8 million Australians are providing 1.9 billion hours of informal care, the equivalent of one in eight people providing about 13 hours per week.

'Many families are carers or will be providing care when the patient leaves our hospitals, so having them more involved will ease the transition back home,' Dr Anderson said.

While it will take some time to make the changes, Dr Anderson says 'everything from the provision of comfortable seating for families at the bedside to safe places for young children to play, internet access, nappy changing facilities, and food storage areas will be considered to ensure wards and treatment areas are welcoming.'

Sydney Local Health District Consumer and Patient Experience Manager Leila Hallam said the paradigm shift removes the artificial constraints of keeping families apart when they need each other the most.

'It is during these times of pain, fear, vulnerability and boredom that families can support, calm, connect and entertain anxious and distressed patients,' Ms Hallam said.

'More than that, families can give a voice to patients when they cannot speak; advocate when they are too weak; and fill in the history.'

Partners in care recognises that families are changing and the people most important to a patient may not be blood relatives or official Next of Kin, but close friends or colleagues, Dr Anderson said.

'The people important to you are important to your care,' she said.

'Patients will play a central role in determining who their partners in care are.'

Partners in care will be encouraged to ask staff questions such as: can we bring in food or drinks from home; is there a fridge we can use; how do we access the unit/ward 24/7 if required; are there any procedures for entry such as intercom access or applying protective clothing and signing in and out.

Master pasta maker Joe Cassaniti, 48, had a brainstem stroke in mid-April that severely affected his ability to walk and use his arms. After spending two weeks in intensive care at RPA and two weeks on the ward, he came to rehabilitate at Balmain Hospital.

The hospital has been trialling the partners in care policy for a number of months and Mr Cassaniti has been taking full advantage of it.

'My wife, my sons, my in-laws – everybody visits me,' Mr Cassaniti, the multi-award winning director of Peppe's Pasta at Haberfield, said.

'The hospital encourages them to come and takes them through to me, wherever I am in the hospital. I am one of the most visited patients in the hospital.'

His wife Antoinette has spent time with him in the gym to help him with his rehabilitation program and to learn the exercises he has to do to help regain movement in his upper limbs.

His family, including his three sons often come to have dinner with him. 'They will come into the dining room and we share a meal,' he said.

Mrs Cassaniti will then spend hours in the evening with her husband, often watching movies and TV shows together on an iPad into the night. 'It’s just like being at home,' he said.

The Sydney Local Health District Patient and Family Experience Symposium is part of Innovation Week. The Symposium will be held on Tuesday 19 June, 2018 from 9.30am to 3pm at the Centre for Education and Workforce Development, Rozelle.


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