The region’s biggest hospital needs to focus more on supporting the mental health of patients and their families, Londoners told officials who run the London Health Sciences Center (LHSC), which includes Victoria and University Hospitals.
Nearly 100 Londoners gathered at the Hellenic Community Center on Tuesday to give their feedback on how to improve healthcare and patient experiences.
“We’re here to serve our communities and we’re accountable to them, so a conversation is a really important opportunity to hear directly, first-hand from individuals,” said Jackie Schleifer Taylor, President and CEO of the Hospital Network.
The conversation is part of the hospital’s master plan to conduct more research on how to better meet the needs of London’s growing and evolving population through a planning grant from the Ontario Department of Health.
The session divided members into two groups where they discussed issues related to accessibility to care, along with what is working well and what needs to change.
“What a better time [to do this] after three years of pandemic and a healthcare system that has learned through this pandemic that there are ways to improve,” said Schleifer Taylor.
“Systems are badly broken”
Community input is necessary to make changes to the healthcare system, said Kellysue McNeil, a companion who has faced many challenges in getting her children the treatments they need.
“If we don’t speak up and come together as a community, things won’t change and the change has to happen yesterday,” she said. “There are systems that are badly broken.”
McNeil says she experienced both sides of the spectrum of a strained system at LHSC.
While her daughter, who was suffering from an undiagnosed mental illness, was severely abused in hospital, her now-paraplegic son’s life was also saved by the LHSC’s compassionate and detailed doctors, she said.
She said her family’s concerns were heard with empathy, showing the initiative LHSC is taking to drive positive change.
“The hospital is the stopgap for anything when something goes wrong or other doors are closed,” Darrel said. “It’s unfortunate but that’s the reality they’re dealing with and they’re just trying to create the best scenario for everyone, even if they’re not equipped.”
“Their hands are unfortunately very much tied to the Government continuing to reduce funding and support and we need to get the Government behind them,” McNeil added.
On February 23, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that provinces will receive $46 billion in health funds over 10 years.
More parental support needed
Jackie Schleifer Taylor, President and CEO of LHSC, during her opening remarks at the Community Talk at the Hellenic Center on February 28. (Isha Bhargava/CBC News)
Jeannie Gheller’s 18-year-old daughter, Mikayla, has been hospitalized on and off for the past two years because of her self-harming severe OCD. There is no facility in Ontario to handle their situation.
“It’s not the hospital’s fault, it’s absolutely the system’s fault,” Gheller said. “Today my daughter is in isolation in the pediatric intensive care unit because her intrusive thoughts are so bad that if she is discharged she will be in danger.”
Mikayla’s condition has taken a toll on Gheller, who says she hasn’t worked in over a year because fighting for her daughter’s health is a priority when no one else will.
Gheller recommended providing more support to parents caring for children with complex needs and disabilities, as it can feel like an uphill battle with no way out.
McNeil’s husband Darrell said he believes patient outcomes could be improved by consulting with individuals and families with lived experiences who can offer different perspectives on a situation.
“Healthcare professionals are really good at analyzing problems from a clinical perspective, but what gets forgotten is the human side of things and the emotional side of what patients or family members are dealing with on top of the problem that brings them to the hospital. ” he said.
Schleifer Taylor said she is optimistic that the community will get involved in revising LHSC and that the feedback received will be shared with all hospital staff to find ways to put it into action.