Submitted by Assistance League of Bellingham
Hospital Patient Support is a program run by Assistance League of Bellingham, a chapter of National Assistance League. Our members volunteer their time and energy to make money used to enrich the lives of children and adults in Whatcom County through our five community programs.
Hospital Patient Support (HPS) is a hidden jewel of a program. Assistance League has been serving PeaceHealth St. Joseph’s Medical Center patients since 1999. At that time, we provided clothing kits for rape victims and children’s kits with items to keep them entertained in the waiting room. We now supply new clothing to the emergency room for any patient who has no clothing to wear home and no one able to bring them clothes to wear.
Patients often have had their clothing cut off or removed due to injury or accident and it is no longer wearable. Many hospitals have sent patients home in hospital gowns. Imagine going home in a gown on a stormy January night! Assistance League of Bellingham’s Hospital Patient Support Program gives them a better option.
We do not know who gets the items or if they get a shirt, pants or both. We just rely on the nurses to get what is needed for their patients. We follow the hospital’s HIPPA regulations and do not get any information except the sizes the hospital needs when they run out of clothing. We have received letters from a few patients thanking us, and cards of appreciation from the nurses at the hospital. This behind-the-scene program quietly makes a real difference to the lives of people in Whatcom County.
“Our homeless folk have little in the way of warm, clean garments to wear. Their stuff can be beyond repair when they are admitted to our unit, or it is a health hazard that should not be cleaned in our community washer.”– Emergency Department at Peach Health St. Joseph Medical Center
From June 2019 to the COVID-19 shut down, Hospital Patient Support used $9,581 to buy new clothing. One of our members who volunteers at the hospital gives HPS the weekly inventory. The chairperson then buys whatever is needed. There is a storage area near the Emergency Room set aside for our clothing. Last year a total of 1,141 sweatshirts, T-shirts and sweatpants were delivered to the hospital for patients in need before we were closed down and had to stay home.
“New clothing from Assistance League provided a valuable service to patients in need. Thank you!”– Emergency Department at Peach Health St. Joseph Medical Center
Most of our volunteer members are in a high-risk group, so our first priority was to make sure we had a plan for everyone involved to stay safe. Only then could we try to begin working on our philanthropic programs again. The new 2020 chairperson of this program did the last order we sent out. She wanted to test a possible COVID-19 safe way to do deliveries in the future. We now believe we can do so in a safe way.
There are currently 17 volunteer members on the Hospital Patient Support committee. Each one has chosen the month they want to do a delivery and are waiting to hear when it is time to replenish the supply. Now with the Thrift Shop open part time and a new contract with PeaceHealth St. Joseph’s Medical Center in place, we are ready to do deliveries to the emergency room on a limited basis of one to two times each month; this is half of the number of deliveries made last year. We also want to insure this will not be a strain on the nurses who are helping us with this program.
Although our volunteers do not have direct contact with the patients, the emergency department staff is very supportive and appreciative of this service and have made the following comment:
“Thank you for this great program. It has significant impact when a patient is injured and their clothes are cut off or are involved in a major accident, assault or trauma and their clothing is ruined.”
When deliveries are made, we do not enter the hospital. We wear masks and notify the nursing staff and security that a representative from Assistance League Hospital Patient Support is outside with a delivery of dated bags of new clothing for them to use. Then a nurse or security officer comes outside and takes our donation to the designated storage area. We are happy to report that HPS deliveries were resumed on September 29, 2020.
Hospital Patient Support depends mainly on the support of the community buying items at our Thrift & Gift Shop and on our eBay site. For that we are truly grateful. Without their support and donations we could not fund our programs. Volunteer members do the footwork to get your donations working in our communities.
We wish you could see all the big smiles under our masks as we say a big THANK YOU to everyone for helping us make a difference here in Whatcom County.
All photos courtesy Assistance League of Bellingham