Patients* and the family members of patients from across the province are playing a pivotal role in co-designing the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) to ensure the health care system is centred on patient needs. Engaging patients and families as active partners in the key areas of governance, strategy and policy as well as wherever care is delivered is our goal. In the coming weeks, as part of SHA’s one-year anniversary celebrations, we are featuring the stories of patient and family advisors who are actively involved in the improvement of the health care system. They discuss why they got involved, how they are engaged, and their hopes for the SHA’s future.
Having patients and families take part in improving health care just makes sense to Wendy Kopciuch.
“It’s one of the best things that’s happened for health care,” said Kopciuch, a Regina-based patient and family advisor. “What I’ve noticed is I’ll say something and they [health care providers] say, ‘I haven’t thought of that.’ That’s huge. Patients are the ones using the service. They should be coming to us for our input.”
Kopciuch is referring to the Saskatchewan Health Authority’s (SHA’s) commitment to design a patient- and family-centred health care system in consultation with patients, families and other parties. The patient and family advisor (PFA) program supports this direction.
Wendy Kopciuch said keeping families informed when their loved ones are in surgery or receiving care is essential.
Kopciuch has a lot of experience as a patient. She has undergone three surgeries, two within two months of each other, and been hospitalized for four months straight.
Her second surgery, in 2014, was to begin at 5:30 p.m. and take 30 minutes. Her surgeon was to insert a feeding tube to improve Kopciuch’s hydration as she was not able to eat and drink enough to do this on her own.
“My surgery turned out to be very complicated and took five hours,” she said.” I am lucky to have such a brilliant surgeon who saved my life that night.”
Her husband, who was in the hospital waiting room, had no knowledge that she was undergoing a major surgery.
“He thought I was still in pre-op so he told the nurses he needed to go home to get some sleep as he had to go to work [the following day] . He was thinking it was only a simple procedure. My husband did not realize the seriousness of my surgery until he came to see me the next day.”
It was only then he learned how serious his wife’s surgery was.
“They’ve got to remember to let families know,” said Kopciuch. “Surgeries are a very stressful time for everyone. Timely and up-to-date communication for patients and families through the entire surgery process is so important.”
She became a patient advisor about a year ago when she was asked to participate in a group focused on improving care for bariatric patients.
In this role, Kopciuch has taken part in a committee to improve wait times in the emergency department and attended a provincial patient and family centred care planning day. She will also share her story with surgical nurses to support their learning and to inform improvements in their area.
She is excited that the 12 health regions have become one authority because she expects this will improve services across the province and ensure the most skilled people lead the changes.
Amalgamation “will get the services aligned so people have access to the same treatment across the province and it will result in more transparency and education for patients and families so everyone will know what’s available.”
Patient and family involvement in transforming the system, she believes, is an essential part of this transformation and will help ensure situations such as what her husband experienced while she was in surgery are a thing of the past.
“The health system wants our opinion so people need to get involved. I think it’s amazing we do this. It’s going to make a huge difference.”
*“Patients” is an all-encompassing term that includes patients, clients, and residents.