A professional Spiritual Care Coordinator is returning to the heart of Altona's elder-care facilities thanks to a newly forged partnership between Rhineland Area Ministerial, Gardens on Tenth Apartments and Altona Community Memorial Health Centre - Southern Health-Sante Sud.

"Since the 1960s, spiritual care has been at the heart of healthcare and quality of life issues for the elderly in our community. Today represents a strengthening of our community's commitment to care for the whole person (in these facilities)," said Rhineland Area Ministerial chairperson, Ted Enns-Dyck, at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on Friday.

The person to fill this full-time position once referred to as the chaplain will be an employee of Southern Health-Sante Sud as a member of the Altona Community Memorial Health Centre team, and will provide spiritual care to patients at the facility as well as to residents of Eastview Place and Gardens on Tenth Apartments. According to the agreement, the coordinator will spend 80 per cent of their time at the hospital/care home and round out the other 20 per cent at Garden On Tenth Apartments.

Rhineland Area Ministerial has committed to fully fund the position and members will work together with Gardens on Tenth Apartments and Altona Community Memorial Health Centre to recruit and provide on-going support.

According to Enns-Dyck, work to reinvigorate this partnership began about one year ago but he says those efforts were expedited when COVID-19 hit, underlining the need for such a position.

"Gardens on Tenth is owned and operated by the churches but our personal care home and hospital are run by the Province, and so if we do not have their blessing or have a space made available for us to provide this type of care we really can't do it in the facility," he explained. "This has really been emphasized in the past six or seven months...in that, we have not been able to have any spiritual care providers, be it from our churches or volunteers, because these facilities have been locked down to outsiders."

As a result of this new agreement, the coordinator will now be able to provide spiritual care to patients during a pandemic or any other closure of the facilities to the public, as well as to residents of Eastview Place and Gardens on Tenth Apartments.

"Part of providing good healthcare is spiritual care," said Marlo Friesen, on behalf of Altona Memorial Health Centre, adding officials are grateful to the community and local churches for providing the funding to put this "essential" position in place.

She noted this partnership will benefit the emotional and spiritual well-being of the residents and patients of these facilities.

"The spiritual relationships we feel, experience and live help us get through difficult times, this is especially true during COVID-19...we know that these connections give comfort and strength during times of uncertainty...knowing that this spiritual care coordinator is available will help residents and patients feel emotionally and spiritually supported when they ask for encouragement, comfort and prayer."

Work to fill this new position will begin shortly.