Approximately 1,500 people have participated in Niagara Health’s Essential Care Partners (ECP) program since its launch in January 2021, which recognizes the valuable role loved ones play in patients’ care. The program was developed when restrictions were put in place for visitors to limit the spread of COVID-19.
“Niagara Health was one of the first hospitals in Ontario to implement the ECP program, and has helped lead these efforts across the province by assisting other hospitals integrate their own family presence programs,” says Linda Boich, Executive Vice President, Quality, and Mental Health and Addictions, Executive Lead for Integrated Care. “As we move forward in our pandemic recovery, we’re looking forward to continuing the program as part of the hospital’s regular service.”
The ECP program allows patients to designate up to two individuals who can provide emotional, cognitive and/or physical care as part of their overall health team. Different than a visitor, an ECP is someone who is considered essential to the safety and well-being of a patient while they are in the hospital. Support can include things like assisting in decision-making, helping patients with eating or other tasks and communicating with hospital staff and physicians when they notice changes in behaviour.
“The ECP program is an essential component of patient care,” says Cathie McDowell, who became an ECP after her 94-year-old father was admitted to the hospital earlier this year. “My family was concerned about how we would support his personal care needs due to COVID-19 restrictions. ECPs are the ears, translators, interpreters, providers of personal services and more. Most importantly, they are the loving and familiar interaction with their loved ones. We found the experience to be part of his care team to be very positive.”
Sonia Pagura, Director of Quality, Safety, Risk, Patient Partnership and Relations, shared Niagara Health’s experience in implementing the ECP program at a discussion hosted by the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) on Nov. 9. Some of the learnings she shared with more than 150 representatives from hospitals across the province were the safe implementation of the ECP program during a crisis and involving patient partners as part of the co-design in order to capture their unique perspectives.
You may be eligible to become an ECP if you have a loved one who is admitted into an inpatient bed for longer than seven days or who has preplanned surgery. Learn more about Niagara Health’s ECP program.