Hospital supporters deliver newspapers for patients
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Patients at the Victoria Hospital now have access to their local newspaper of record, thanks to the help of a support organization dedicated to advancing health-care outcomes.
Last week, the Victoria Hospital Foundation donated 60, one-year subscriptions for the Winnipeg Free Press to the medical centre, located in south Winnipeg.
The hospital once offered complimentary copies of the paper to patients, but had not renewed its subscriptions for many years. This month, staff from the therapeutic services department sent a grant request to the foundation, asking if they’d support an initiative to bring the broadsheet back, said Nicole Chammartin, the foundation’s executive director.
“Sometime, there are really simple things we can do to help in health care that aren’t health care specific,” she said. “For us, it sounded like an easy win.”
Speaking by phone Saturday, Chammartin outlined the myriad benefits patients reap from reading the paper.
For many, it becomes a touchstone to the outside world, offering connection to the community, providing mental stimulation and helping to establish a daily routine. Therapists also incorporate it into rehabilitation programming to help patients improve cognitive functions, including memory and communication skills, she said.
“Patients have actively been asking for it and expressing how important it is for them to get that daily news and connection, so the initial response has been really positive,” Chammartin said.
As health-care systems throughout the country face mounting challenges, Chammartin stressed the importance of seeking broad solutions.
“We can be (more) active in supporting health and health-care systems in our society,” she said. “We need to look at all of the ways we can engage and support patient experiences.”
Colleen Zacharias, a freelance columnist who writes about gardening for the Free Press, said her late father Bruce Victor Johnston was an avid subscriber.
After suffering a stroke in 2009, he spent years in and out of Winnipeg hospitals. Throughout it all, he found solace in reading the paper, Zacharias said, speaking by phone.
“The newspaper was everything to him,” she said, remembering how she’d sometimes enter his room and find pages spread out on the floor.
“I’d offer to clean it up and he’d say, ‘No, no, no. I’ve read it all, but I think I’m going to read it again,” Zacharias said.
Johnston’s stroke limited his mobility, but the newspaper facilitated his connection to the outside world, kept him oriented and gave him things to discuss with his daughter and friends.
Johnston died in 2019 at the age of 92.
Zacharias commended both the hospital and foundation for recognizing the impact newspaper can make for patients.
“I think we would all be at a loss if we didn’t have our local daily newspaper,” she said.
Copies of the Free Press are now available to patients throughout the hospital’s in-patient units, including in the mental health, geriatric and medicine units.