It’s no coincidence that The Scarborough Hospital’s (TSH) Spiritual and Religious Care department provides nearly 30,000 patient visits annually. After all, spiritual and religious care has contributed to improving patient outcomes time and time again. It is part of the holistic health care approach taken by TSH.
“Spiritual and religious care becomes particularly important in times of crisis, when patients are trying to navigate from a place of fear or worry, to a place of meaning and peace,” says Ajith Varghese, Manager, Spiritual and Religious Care, TSH. “When patients and their families are struggling to cope or begin to question their existence based on their values and beliefs, we help them to find the answers to their questions, from within themselves.”
Sebastian Lobo, a patient with stomach cancer, knows first-hand the impact that spiritual and religious care can have on a person’s mind and soul.
Sebastian had 80 per cent of his stomach removed two years ago. In the time since, he has been managing his cancer by taking care of himself and attending all his doctor’s appointments. Everything was relatively fine until a recent infection penetrated his weakened immune system (which was undergoing chemotherapy) resulting in a fever, complete with shaking and chills. Sebastian came into the hospital to be treated for the infection.
Throughout his treatment, Sebastian, who, along with his wife, is Roman Catholic, has relied on his faith in God to stay positive through difficult experiences.
“Faith is important, very, very important. It’s what keeps me alive,” says Sebastian. “Faith in God brings relief and comfort. When you have hope in the Lord, things will always turn around.”
He credits TSH’s Spiritual and Religious Care department with helping him cope as well.
“Spiritual care helps you cope with the challenges (that come with being sick). It is not easy – you must have faith,” he says. “My wife met a hospital chaplain one day, and from that time, many Christian chaplains have prayed over me. Having someone to talk to (at the hospital) was a good thing.”
The Spiritual and Religious Care department works with patients from all walks of life and religions – whether Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Traditional (Aboriginal) Spirituality, Secular Humanist, or those who are spiritual in nature but do not identify with a particular organized religion.
A wide range of support is available including a Mourning Room at each campus, prayer mats and chanting machines, ecumenical/multi-faith worship services, bereavement and perinatal bereavement programs, memorial services, grief and individual support, and more. This care is important in facilitating a sense of healing, closure, and peace for patients and family members.
“I recall a patient who passed away a few years ago,” says Varghese. “He had a beaded bracelet on his wrist. His family requested we pay special attention at the morgue to not remove the bracelet, as he believed the beads would connect him to his ancestors. We helped to ensure his wishes were respected.”
The department has also built a strong alliance with its community and calls on local faith community leaders and community clergy to assist in providing faith sensitive services, and on-call community clergy, as required.
“We appreciate the unique ministry offered by our local faith community leaders,” says Varghese. “They offer our patients and families the rituals, rites, and cultural sensitivity that can only be provided by leaders in those communities.”
In addition, TSH would like to extend a warm welcome to three new chaplains, Pamela Bauer, Teresa Lai, and Ann Muhia, who are joining the Spiritual and Religious Care department this summer.
For more information on receiving culturally sensitive spiritual care for yourself or a loved one, please visit www.tsh.to/patients-families/spiritual-and-religious-care/.