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Innovative washroom system aims to keep clients safe at RISE Community Health Centre and Evergreen Ambulatory Care

Nu Lu and Sandra Bodenhamer stand next to the sign that alerts clients to expect a safety check after ten minutes

The health and safety of clients and staff are a top priority for everyone at Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH). Staff at a site funded by VCH and the Ministry of Health recently implemented a procedure to help ensure clients remain safe in a washroom at 5198 Joyce Street. The formalized procedure is the first of its kind in the health authority.

Earlier this year, COVID protocols lifted enough so clients could walk into the building shared by RISE Community Health Centre (CHC) (part of Collingwood Neighbourhood House and funded by the Ministry of Health through Collingwood Neighbourhood House) and Evergreen Ambulatory Care without being buzzed in by a staff member. Sandra Bodenhamer, Director of RISE CHC, realized it was difficult for reception to keep track of and possibly support each person coming and going from a single-stall washroom in the client care area. Sandra had heard about Brave Sensor, an innovative device that alerts staff when someone stops moving or has been in a washroom or other isolated space long enough to cause concern, which can help staff identify when a potential overdose or code blue event might be taking place.  Sandra brought the idea of installing a Brave Sensor and developing a safety procedure to the building's Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) team. Sandra, the OH&S team and Nu Lu, Manager of Evergreen CHC Home Health then worked together to implement the new system.

Fast forward a few months, and the washroom is now equipped with a Brave Sensor and staff are trained with a specific procedure to ensure they know exactly what to do if they are concerned about a client who has spent a long period of time in the washroom.

“The Brave Sensor sends a text message alert to two designated cell phones, one with RISE and one with Evergreen Ambulatory Care. If someone has been in the washroom for ten minutes or if the sensor has not detected any movement for 60 seconds, the person who receives the text knocks on the washroom door and verbally checks on the client. " explains Sandra.  Depending on the client's response, the staff member gives them more time or escalates the situation as needed.  If neither staff member responds to the text within two minutes, the alert escalates to other staff members. The new safety procedure outlines how to perform a verbal and/or visual check, when and how to enter the washroom, and when to initiate procedures such as Code Blue or escalation to 9-1-1. An overdose response box that contains a Naloxone kit and personal protective equipment is installed in the washroom along with signs in three languages alerting clients that a staff member will knock on the door after ten minutes.

“The procedure was created with a harm-reduction, trauma-informed perspective," remarks Sandra.

Nu explains staff will perform drills to ensure they are familiar with the process, and they will continue to make adjustments to the sensor to determine an appropriate length of time before it begins to send alerts.

“If it saves one life, it is worth it," she adds. Nu hopes to bring the concept to her managers with the goal of determining whether staff at other VCH sites may be interested in a similar system.

SOURCE: Innovative washroom system aims to keep clients safe at RISE Community Health Centre and Evergreen Ambulatory Care ( )
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