Palliative care is specialized medical care for people living with a serious illness. Along with essential end-of-life care, palliative care at Sinai Health is dedicated to providing quality and dignity for patients and families who are living with a life-limiting illness – from the time of diagnosis, through managing pain and addressing active issues to helping patients and families cope with loss and grief.

Expanded role to support hospital colleagues

There has been an increased need for guidance from palliative care experts during the COVID-19 pandemic. At Mount Sinai Hospital, the team from the Temmy Latner Centre for Palliative Care has provided support to colleagues from the emergency department to the ICU, and helped to establish a specialized high-flow nasal oxygen unit in general internal medicine.

“The Palliative Care team has been amazing,” says Dr. Christie Lee, Interim Site Lead for the Intensive Care Unit. “Their support in the ICU has been an inspiration and it’s been  a collaborative effort to care for these very sick patients.” 

From hospital to home, virtually and in-person

In addition to supporting the hospital, the team continues to provide care for patients in the community, through home-based services. Prior to the pandemic, they already offered telephone and virtual visits, alongside in-person visits. Now, these services have increased and in some instances a hybrid visit is organized where the initial part is done virtually and an in-person visit is scheduled a short time later. 

“Like other areas of health care, the home palliative care team has had to adapt to the necessity of providing more virtual care,” notes Dr. Russell Goldman, Director of Sinai Health’s Inter-Departmental Division of Palliative Care. “However, given the nature of our work, we have continued to stress the importance of in-person visits throughout the pandemic. Our patients and their families have been grateful for the care and dedication of our team.”

Care that goes beyond medicine

Photo of Edith with teamFor the interprofessional team on the Albert & Temmy Latner Family Palliative Care Unit at Bridgepoint Active Healthcare, fulfilling patients’ end-of-life wishes would not be hampered by COVID-19. For patient Edith St. Marseille, this meant finding a way for her to safely enjoy the Canadian winter one more time.

The unit overlooks Toronto’s Riverdale Park which is known for its excellent tobogganing. Edith remarked one day while watching families enjoy the activity that she wished she too could go “coasting down the hill.”

“Edith told myself and the team who worked closely with her that this was her ‘wish’ to go outside just one more time, “ says Susanne Loay, Patient Care Manager on the Unit. “After several conversations and consent from her family, her wish was fulfilled and the smile on her face was infectious for days.”

While Edith didn’t sled down the big hill at the park, she was able to experience the Canadian winter that she has always loved.

First introduced at Mount Sinai Hospital in 1989, palliative care at Sinai Health has evolved into a division that includes the Temmy Latner Centre for Palliative Care providing home-based palliative services and inpatient consult services offered at Mount Sinai and the inpatient Albert & Temmy Latner Family Palliative Care Unit at Bridgepoint Active Healthcare.