“There’s someone out there who cares”
Jo-Anne Cosby is terrified of contracting COVID-19, and with good reason.
The 53-year-old Hamilton woman already struggles to breathe because of severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). She relies on a home oxygen system by day and BiPap ventilation machine at night so her lungs continue to work while she’s sleeping.
Shortness of breath and coughing are symptoms of both COPD and COVID-19. Worried she may have contracted COVID-19, Cosby decided to get tested but wasn’t sure how she would get to a screening site.
“On a good day, it can be difficult for Jo-Anne to leave her apartment because of her COPD,” said Tara Bloomfield, a coordinator with the award-winning Hamilton Health Sciences’ Hospital 2 Home program.
Supporting patient goals
H2H provides care for patients impacted by multiple chronic conditions and faced with social and economic barriers to achieving good health. Since the program was established in 2014, it has supported close to 1,400 patients in the Hamilton and Niagara area.
“Having Hospital 2 Home’s support has been tremendous for me.”
H2H’s success is based on strong community partnerships. The H2H team collaborates with patients and health, social and community service providers to create action plans that support patients’ goals while also improving the patient and provider experience, population health and the use of health care resources.
Cosby was referred to the H2H program several months ago after being hospitalized for COPD. “I don’t have a lot of help as far as family goes,” said Cosby, who lives alone in a one-bedroom apartment and doesn’t drive.
Cautious COVID-19 screening
“Once the pandemic hit, it became even more difficult for Jo-Anne to leave her apartment due to increased fear of possibly becoming infected,” said Bloomfield, who worked with Hamilton Public Health to arrange for Cosby to be picked up by a DARTS bus as a lone rider and taken to a screening centre. There, a nurse boarded the bus and administered the COVID-19 screening test. It came back negative, making it likely that the coughing and shortness of breath were COPD-related.
“Having Hospital 2 Home’s support has been tremendous for me,” said Cosby. “I always know that there’s someone out there who cares.”
Going the extra mile
Managing her COPD includes taking medication that costs $90 per month, out-of-pocket.
“For someone on a very fixed income it’s a lot,” said Cosby, who sometimes had to choose between paying for medication or groceries. She tried, unsuccessfully, to get her medication covered through a provincial program. So Bloomfield did some investigating and learned that the drug company had a program for covering costs on compassionate grounds and helped Cosby to successfully apply.
“Tara really went the extra mile for me,” said Cosby. “It was such a relief to get my medication. I would have hugged Tara if it wasn’t for COVID-19.”
Bloomfield was also there to help when Cosby started to experience swelling in her legs. A registered nurse by profession, Bloomfield suspected the cause might be a high sodium diet. She connected Cosby to her family doctor for diagnosis and treatment, and the swelling was managed through a low-sodium diet and by elevating her feet.
“I’m very grateful for this program. It saved me.”
“By just making these changes, we were able to prevent the swelling from worsening,” said Bloomfield.
The H2H team continues to check in with Cosby, who remains fairly isolated due to her health challenges and fear of being exposed to COVID-19. Bloomfield also connected Cosby to a Good Shepherd community health navigator, who helped arrange for grocery delivery so she wouldn’t have to venture out on her own to get food. Good Shepherd community health navigators partner with H2H coordinators to address patients’ health and social needs. The Hamilton Health Sciences Foundation provides financial support to the H2H program for items such as food, transportation and other essential supplies.
“My health is precarious enough,” said Cosby. “I don’t want to take any chances. I’m very grateful for this program. It saved me.”
The Canadian College of Health Leaders announced this week that Hamilton Health Sciences is receiving the 2020 Excellence in Patient Experience Award for the Hospital 2 Home program.