According to Meghan McCourt, a Professional Practice Leader at Kingston Health Science’s Centre’s (KHSC) Kingston General Hospital (KGH) site, “Social Workers must wear many hats” in order to help patients and their families.
“There are times when our intervention starts as a friendly conversation,” says McCourt, “but usually these are more difficult situations. We don’t see people when things are going well. Not in an acute hospital environment.”
For the KGH site social workers at KHSC, having access to a source of flexible, emergency funds means increased options for patients and their families during times of distress. “Sometimes it’s a medical issue,” says McCourt, “Helping patients to be well, to pay for prescription when there is a gap in funding or for over-the-counter medication while a longer term plan for accessing these medications is established.
Sometimes there are expenses associated with just being at the hospital building which create financial strain,” says McCourt, of the challenges that family members face when a loved one is admitted to hospital. “The expense of driving back and forth or paying for parking—and food is huge. Maybe you’ve arrived here in the middle of the night, possibly without a wallet, and haven’t eaten for a while.”
When they see people struggling, care team members often refer family members to social workers who assess and connect patients and families to resources to address challenges and barriers that they experience as a result of their treatment or medical issue. When there are gaps and there aren’t other options, Social Workers are able to use the University Hospitals Kingston Foundation’s (UHKF) Comfort and Care Fund as a last resort option to try to address some of the need.
Social Workers administer the University Hospitals Kingston Foundation’s (UHKF) Comfort and Care Funds across all of the healthcare sites. “One of the reasons the UHKF wanted to work with us is because our assessment provides us with a view to the whole picture. We’re careful because we recognize we could help a couple of people a lot or a lot of people a little bit.”
Whether it’s a $7 sandwich, socks for a patient with nothing to wear on their feet, a parking voucher, or a gas card to help a low-income senior from a rural community supporting a loved one in hospital, McCourt stresses that for Social Workers, having access to this type of funding means that there are options available to address challenges experienced by patients and families which impact their coping during an already difficult period.
The UHKF’s Comfort and Care Funds enhance similar historic and ongoing support from the KGH Auxiliary. “With funds being raised from two sources it allows us to do so much more.”
Indeed that “much more” will be on McCourt’s mind as she and her team of Mad Hatters—a playful double-entendre on the many hats that social workers wear—participate in this year’s WE WALK! for Patient Comfort and Care on September 29, UHKF’s annual 5 km family-friendly walk at Lake Ontario Park.
“Last year there were goofy hats and meaningful hats,” says McCourt, “as a social work team we’re highly motivated to do what we can to support the fundraising” as the funding levels are variable while the needs are never-ending.
“At the end of the day I feel privileged by what this fund allows us to do. And I want to do what I can to spread the word about this fundraising event.”
UHKF’s Comfort and Care Fund provides emergency funding for patients and their families who are experiencing financial hardship arising from non-medical costs of care. For more information or to make a donation to WE WALK! for your comfort and care email firstname.lastname@example.org.