Hospital rewrites the rules so loved ones can say goodbye at COVID patients’ bedsides

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Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 4:25 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 23, 2021 at 7:06 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Behind the COVID case counts and fatalities are so many tragic and incredibly personal moments.

Many times it’s health care workers not only taking care of patients but also helping families cope with the grief of losing a loved one.

Now one hospital is rewriting the rules to help family members say goodbye.

On Thursday, Adventist Heath Castle’s intensive care unit was operating over capacity. More than 80% of those patients are COVID-positive.

For 18 months, frontline caregivers have witnessed the effects of the virus.

“I see it every day. It’s devastating. We’re seeing more death than I’ve ever seen in my seven years here,” said Hospitalist and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Smitson.

Joshua Almanza added, “Being in hospice, being a chaplain has been very trying.”

Nonetheless, the comfort they provide to dying patients and their families is unwavering.

“What keeps me humble is that I can feel their pain and cry with them,” said Palliative Care Coordinator Sheri Richards.

Health care workers say one of the most tragic aspects of COVID is that so many patients die alone.

“Anytime someone is approaching death there are so many feelings. You want your loved ones around,” Almanza said.

That’s why a new partnership between Adventist Health Castle and Bristol Hospice is allowing exceptions so family members can be at the bedside during those final moments.

“It’s essentially just hospice, in the hospital ― which we’ve never done before,” said Smitson.

Almanza said, “We’re there to hold that space and allow folks to feel what’s going on and celebrate a life well lived.”

It also allows an opportunity to say goodbye.

“They’re all difficult conversations,” said Richards. “Mostly we focus on comfort.”

Almanza called it instrumental to the healing process.

“That’s so crucial to coping with what’s going on in the present,” he said. “But also begin the processing of the grieving they’re going to face going forward.”

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