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Pandemic leads to virtual visits in palliative care in Kamloops

Interior Health is setting up a program to allow digital contact through cameras, microphones and web-based softwares, such as FaceTime, Skype and Zoom
Hospice
The Marjorie Willoughby Snowden Memorial Hospice Home, located on Whiteshield Crescent in Sahali, has been in operation for nearly 15 years. Webcams will allow people to not only check in on their loved ones, but also talk to them, at the hospice and other palliative care locales in the city.

With the global pandemic leading to restrictions in place for visiting those in palliative care, a move is afoot to provide digital visitation at the local hospice home.

“People won’t die in isolation and families won’t feel that they’re letting folks die in isolation,” Dr. Rob Baker, regional medical director for end of life care for Interior Health West, told KTW.

Baker said if he were dying, he would want to see those who mean most to him. However, he noted, patients and health-care workers need to be protected.

“If we allow all of our staff to get sick, we’re going to have no one to look after anyone,” Baker said.

Palliative care in Kamloops primarily takes place at the Marjorie Willoughby Snowden Memorial Hospice House in Sahali, but Overlander Residential Care in North Kamloops and Royal Inland Hospital downtown also have four beds each. In addition, palliative care occurs in the community.

Baker said restrictions have already been put in place on visiting the dying in Kamloops, noting stricter measures are likely on the way.

Interior Health consulted with Kamloops Computer Centre to find a digital solution, though one problem quickly arose: webcams were in limited supply, due to more people working remotely from home. As a result, a call went out to the community online in recent days, requesting old webcams no longer in use for the initiative.

The community answered.

“It was amazing,” Baker said. “Within a few hours, we had to say, ‘Whoa, whoa, that’s enough!’ They haven’t all arrived, but we certainly have commitments to say it’s enough.”

Baker said webcams will allow people to not only check in on their loved ones, but also talk to them. It is unclear when that will be in place, but Baker said Interior Health is “actively” setting up a program to allow virtual visiting through cameras, microphones and web-based softwares, such as FaceTime, Skype and Zoom. It will require consent and be password protected.