Clothing patients in dignity with comfort closet

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By Skaidra Puodziunas

Some might take a new pair of pants for granted, but St. Michael’s Family Health Team has found that patients who’ve received brand new items from the team’s Patient Comfort Closet are grateful for the comfort and dignity they provide.

“We’ve created a closet stocked with everyday essentials that our providers can pull from to offer patients in need,” says Cian Knights, the community engagement specialist with the Family Health Team and creator of the closet. “That need can be new shoes for someone who is vulnerably housed, to a stroller for a new parent who cannot afford one.”

The Patient Comfort Closet is restocked every two months through a partnership with Brands for Canada, a not-for-profit organization working to ensure Canadians living below the poverty line have access to proper clothing and other basic essentials necessary. Everyday items such as new clothing, toothbrushes and toothpaste, deodorant, incontinence products and cleaning supplies can come in the delivery truck.

“It’s like a closet of mystery,” says Knights. “We never know what we’ll get each shipment, but the items are always new and that’s important. It’s dignifying for our patients to have new items. That’s why we don’t accept or offer gently used or second-hand items.”

Any health-care practitioner with the Family Health Team can access the Patient Comfort Closet to get items patients need.

“The closet has brought instant comfort to our patients,” said John Giannitsopoulos, a social worker. “It allows us to address an immediate concern while we continue supporting our patients’ health and well-being over the long-term through social and economic solutions.”

Since it was piloted in January at the Sumac Creek Health Centre, the closet has been used more than 50 times to help patients meet their basic living needs. The closet has also expanded to the St. James Health Centre and the Health Centre at 410 Sherbourne. The latter two sites were able to build their own closet through the Dr. Philip Berger Health Advocacy Fund—a fund set up by grateful donors to support needs within the Family Health Team.

Skaidra Puodziunas works in communications at St. Michael’s Hospital.