A St. Joseph’s Health Centre staff member has been going above and beyond the call of duty to provide warmth this winter to a particularly vulnerable group of patients.
Shirley Pullan, patient care manager for the hospital’s adult inpatient mental health unit, has, since she started at the health centre eight years ago, been collecting coats, boots, hats, scarves and mitts for her adult patients who arrive through the emergency department.
“What I noticed, when I started here, particularly in the winter months, the patients we were discharging were homeless or living in the shelter system and didn’t have winter coats or gloves,” Pullan told The Villager. “You’re not comfortable letting them go back because they don’t have winter clothes.”
These patients are those who don’t have family or friends the doctors and nurses could call to say, ‘Could you please bring in a winter coat?’
“I saw this as a huge problem. You don’t want anything to happen to these people. They could get frostbite or hypothermia,” Pullan said. “In response to that problem, I started a clothing drive in the hospital. It first started through word of mouth.”
This winter has been especially unforgiving with almost daily wind-chill warnings and extreme cold weather alerts.
“I’m very fortunate to say that at this point, I have enough donations from hospital staff to clothe the anticipated number of patients until the end of winter,” Pullan said.
She expects to see as many as 100 patients come through the hospital’s emergency doors by the end of March. These are adults who are dealing with major mental health illnesses, such as depression, possible schizophrenia, bipolar affective disorder and addiction. St. Joe’s treats adults of all ages, cultures, regions and backgrounds, Pullan said.
“They’re coming to the hospital with a whole range of issues. They’re picked up by police under the police term ‘failure to thrive.’ The police are concerned for their safety because a patient is outside in minus 35 degree (Celsius) weather in just a sweater, jeans and slippers,” she said.
The winter clothing drive is an initiative that’s near and dear to Pullan’s heart.
“Here, one of our mission statements is to serve the marginalized and disenfranchised and the homeless fall into this category,” she said.
Pullan said she is very grateful for her colleagues’ support.
Visit www.stjoe.on.ca/programs/emerg/index.php for details.