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Sumac Creek Health Centre patients honoured in patient memorial ceremony

Toronto, July 25, 2016

By Kaitlyn Patterson

After staff read the name of each patient who passed away, a flower was placed into a bouquet.
After staff read the name of each patient who passed away, a flower was placed into a bouquet.

St. Michael’s Hospital’s Sumac Creek Health Centre staff honoured patients who passed away within the past year. The memorial ceremony was held on July 15 at Daniels Spectrum – a community centre in Regent Park located next to the Sumac Creek Health Centre.

“When patients we’ve served pass away, we are often left with a sense of loss, but nowhere to share that loss or reflect on it,” said Dr. Samantha Green, a family physician with St. Michael’s. “The purpose of the memorial ceremony is to give space and time for staff to remember and reflect on our patients.”

After staff read the name of each patient, a flower was placed into a bouquet. Physicians, nurses and other members of the Sumac Creek Health Centre were given the opportunity to share stories and read poems in remembrance of those who passed away. A nurse who had worked at the Sumac Creek Health Centre was also remembered.

The ceremony took place just two days after the centre celebrated its one-year anniversary.

“We wanted to institute a memorial ceremony to provide staff with a time and place to honour patients,” said Dr. Green. “Now that Sumac Creek has been open for a year, we thought it would be the right time to start this new tradition.”

Family members of the deceased patients were sent a letter to inform them that the patient was being honoured in this way.

“Grief can often go unexpressed with no outlet,” said Peter Thompson, manager of Spiritual Care Services for St. Michael’s. “Memorial services are important because they facilitate a time of grieving that helps people heal and gives them time to say goodbye and honour the person who has passed away.”

The Sumac Creek Health Centre’s memorial service is not the only one of its kind at St. Michael’s. The hospital holds patient memorial services for families four times a year in its Upper Marketeria. Health-care providers for long-term inpatients are also informed of the service and welcome to attend. Families are invited to bring a flower to leave at the service in remembrance of their loved one.

“We invite people to participate in the service as much as they’re comfortable doing and our chaplains are there to speak to families about their loss,” said Thompson. “The families often say that while it was initially difficult to come back to the hospital, they’re glad they did.”

St. Michael’s Spiritual Care Services also organizes staff memorials for when a staff member passes away.

“Over time, people form relationships with the people they work with, so they can feel a great deal of loss when one of their colleagues passes away,” said Thompson. “When planning the memorial, we like to be respectful of the individual by taking into account who they were and what their belief system was.”

Thompson said memorial services held at the hospital are not specific to any faith, which is important for a population as diverse as St. Michael’s urban community.

“When families and staff come to a memorial service they are in a different place, but are often still grieving,” said Thompson. “Attending the service and speaking to a chaplain gives people the opportunity to open up about what is happening now in terms of their loss and can help them move forward into a life without that person.”

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.