Jose Medeiros: Social Worker goes Beyond for Dialysis Patients
For many dialysis patients, COVID-19 has increased the many challenges they already face. Jose Medeiros, Renal Social Worker at the Etobicoke Renal Centre, is one of Osler’s staff dedicated to supporting patients as they transition onto dialysis.
“Their lives can change drastically as their kidneys start to fail and they need to go on renal replacement therapy,” says Jose. “There are issues of housing, finances, drug coverage, transportation to and from dialysis, or if they do dialysis at home, physical assistance with the dialysis.”
Restrictions of COVID-19 including physical distancing makes it difficult to rely on friends and neighbours for emotional and physical support. “I have one patient who lives alone and his immune system is compromised,” Jose says. “There's no one that he can ask to pick up his meds and not all pharmacies deliver without a cost. So I deliver medication to this patient once a month and that's made a huge difference to him.”
Social workers assess barriers associated with coming onto dialysis, provide education, and help patients with the emotional adjustment. “It's a chronic disease that is progressive so people often have issues around employment, housing, impact on relationships and family,” says Jose. “And in the Peel and Etobicoke area there are multi-generational families living together in small quarters, so it creates a lot of tension and stress when one of them becomes ill.”
RETURNING TO HIS PASSION
A social worker for 32 years, Jose started at Osler in January of 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic. He joined the team at the new Etobicoke Renal Centre in April, returning to nephrology, his passion.
Recently, Jose was part of a small team that worked for six months to prevent a patient’s family from being evicted. When the family’s sponsor lost his job due to the pandemic, he could no longer support them. Jose worked with Ontario Works, the Ontario Disability Support Program, Eviction Prevention in the Community, Punjabi Community Health Services, and the landlord, to get the rent paid off and allow the family to stay in their home. “That was an incredible amount of work,” Jose says. “I was very impressed with all my community colleagues who worked diligently. They went way beyond and we did prevent the eviction.”
For many patients, COVID has made it even more difficult to access food. Jose is grateful for the support of local food banks, Malton Neighborhood Services, the Red Cross, and The Kidney Foundation of Canada. He also praises Wheel-Trans, TransHelp and Caledon Community Services for access to subsidized transportation.
“I think the pandemic has highlighted areas where people are disadvantaged. The things that life throws at people are much harder because they don't know how to access those resources to get the help they need in a timely fashion,” he says.
DESIRE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE
With stressful daily challenges a part of his job, Jose is motivated by a desire to make a difference. “Osler’s motto of ‘going beyond’ is something that I've always done in every job,” he says. “I would say that's true for the social workers I know, period. When we got into this profession, we knew that for each problem we solve today, there’s a hundred behind.”
Jose is also proud of his teammates at Osler. “Even before the pandemic, I experienced my colleagues going beyond on a regular basis,” he says. “And what makes me proud is that we're all fatigued, after wearing a mask and a shield for eight hours or longer, but I still see my teammates who are always committed and having positive regard for patients.”
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