A therapy dog â€‹â€‹handler says she is pending as to whether she can return to a hospital to provide much-needed support and relief to patients and staff.
Janice McCauley and her golden retriever Yazzy have been visiting Medway Maritime Hospital for several years but have not been able to return since the pandemic.
Visiting restrictions were tightened during the Covid outbreak, but since they were relaxed, Janice says she has been kept in the dark by infection control managers who are required to sign their return to the wards.
“We weren’t told anything other than Infection Control to make a decision, but it seems like we’re being fobbed off,” she told KentOnline of her frustrations and difficulty getting answers.
â€œWe were told we couldn’t go to the wards because of Covid, which is fair enough, but now that things have eased, Darent Valley Hospital went back to the wards in July, as did other hospitals.
“We keep asking when we can return, but there are no answers at all.”
Janice said she visited Dobbies in Gillingham earlier this week, and workers at the NHS Covid Hub, which was set up outside the garden center, recognized Yazzy and asked Janice when they would be back.
But Janice says she needs to let disappointed doctors, nurses, and patients know they can’t return because they haven’t been given permission to return to the wards despite following various departments and people she worked with prior to the pandemic Has.
“They say they’ll try to sort it out, but a month goes by, and another month later they say they’re still waiting to hear from infection control,” Janice adds.
Yazzy has become incredibly popular in the hospital over the years, visiting two or three days a week in the past.
Janice, who has trained guide dogs for the blind since 1995 and has owned Yazzy since puppyhood, says she is regularly inundated with messages on the Facebook and Twitter accounts she runs.
People can make requests to come down and see them, but patients are â€œdisappointed and upsetâ€ when she has to tell them that they cannot visit the hospital.
She says other Kent hospital trusts have allowed therapy dogs to return to the wards and see patients, and have been allowed to go back to schools in the past few weeks.
“It’s a mystery to me and such a shame. Everyone used to look forward to it so much. We just want to go back.
â€œWe encourage patients, doctors and nurses alike. They love petting Yazzy and chatting. It is good therapy because some patients but us do not get any visitors at all, and it is good for mental health and stress relief.
“We’re volunteers so it’s unpaid but very rewarding work.”
Janice, who lives in Lower Halstow near Sittingbourne, says it is difficult to move to other hospitals as security and health checks are required to make sure Yazzy is appropriate and safe – something she is already familiar with Medway did.
“It’s not just something you come in and we have to do controls for it,” she said.
“Every dog â€‹â€‹needs to be checked before you can go inside to make sure they have the right temperament and nature – and Yazzy definitely does.”
She remembered how Yazzy had interacted with them and reassured them, saying that his daughter had been so grateful.
“There is comfort and to see how a dog can do that is pretty amazing,” said Janice.
Comment was sought from Medway NHS Trust, but KentOnline believes a decision is imminent.
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