Hospital chaplaincy continues in midst of COVID-19 restrictions

Patients still desire prayer and spiritual care, and Catholic chaplains are still able to respond to many requests at Saskatoon hospitals. ( stock photo)

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

All spiritual care volunteers are now barred from visiting patients in Saskatoon hospitals, as part of measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, also known as coronavirus.

However, patients can still receive pastoral visits from designated denominational chaplains, including Fr. Rhéal Bussière and Jackie Saretsky of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon Hospital Chaplaincy program.

“They are trying to limit the community clergy or chaplaincy personnel to those who have the most experience and are designated for that role,” said Jackie Saretsky, who coordinates Hospital Chaplaincy in the diocese.

As a result, Saretsky and Bussière are now focusing on patient requests, emergencies and end-of-life situations – which fall  under the health authority rules that the only visitors allowed are those who are there for “compassionate reasons.”

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Other than the sacramental anointing of the sick by Fr. Rheal Bussière, the chaplains are offering “no-touch spiritual care.”

This means that the Eucharist (holy communion) will not be offered to patients “unless they absolutely desire it” in cases of dire need, said Saretsky, noting the effort to limit hand-to-hand contact. All health guidelines with respect to hand washing and hygiene are being diligently observed.

“I would encourage people at this difficult time, that the Catholic chaplaincy presence continues in hospitals,” she said. To request a visit contact Jackie Saretsky at 306-292-5531 or Fr. Rhéal Bussière at 306-371-7125.

She noted that spiritual care for compassionate reasons is presently happening in both Royal University Hospital and St. Paul’s Hospital. The issue is still under discussion at Saskatoon City Hospital, where all volunteers, including community clergy, are not allowed at this time.