WDHB's Care with Dignity programme impresses health minister

24 March 2016

Caption: Minister of Health Dr Jonathan Coleman speaking to Whanganui DHB staff during his visit to Whanganui Hospital last week
Minister of Health, the Hon. Dr Jonathan Coleman and local MP Chester Borrows are impressed with Whanganui Hospital’s Care with Dignity programme. During their visit to the hospital last week, they were told the programme has had a positive impact on Medical Ward patients since its inception in 2014.
Medical Ward clinical nurse manager Colleen Hill says the Medical Ward’s health care assistants (HCAs) had led the project designed to improve the care of cognitively-impaired patients – a key focus of the Whanganui Rising to the Challenge system which supports mental health and wellbeing.
Minister Coleman and Mr Borrows heard that 18 months on, with the programme’s education module in place, 26 HCAs now wear the Care with Dignity badge as an acknowledgment of their achievement and commitment in continuing to provide this philosophy of care.
“We know that cognitively-impaired patients can feel overwhelmed and disorientated when admitted to hospital which, besides being distressing for the patients, can lead to challenging behaviours for our HCAs to work with,” Mrs Hill says. “Our HCAs have been champions for change in the way confused patients with delirium and/or dementia are cared for while in hospital.
“We have growing numbers of patients who require close observation to keep them safe during their stay in hospital. How we do this, has a significant impact on their recovery. Our HCA’s ideas have put patients at the centre of care and enhanced their quality of life in an atmosphere of dignity and respect.”
As well as a more compassionate and confident workforce, the Care with Dignity programme has also led to:
  • a decrease in falls with harm
  • a minimisation in restraint
  • a decrease in sedation medication in the confused older person
  • an increase in staff confidence and empathy
  • an increase in patients and whānau positive feedback
  • a decrease in staff sick leave.
Mrs Hill says two key elements to delivering the best possible care to these people are family/carer involvement and meaningful engagement and communication.
“Work to develop the Care with Dignity programme is ongoing as we further explore dementia design and dementia-friendly principles to enable best practice in order to influence and change how care is delivered to not only our patients who have cognitive impairment but also for any older person admitted to Whanganui Hospital,” Mrs Hill says.
“If we get our environment and care right for those who live with dementia, we will get it right for all our older population.”
Minister Coleman also met with a small group of senior clinical staff who discussed a range of topics such as the lack of progress in updating regional the clinical IT systems, theatre and outpatient cancellations, and the concern about the numbers of people who are not turning up for their appointments. Staff also raised public health concerns relating to obesity and the lack of fluoridation in Whanganui’s water supply.