The Deacon’s Bench

by The Reverencd Deacon Roderick McDowell

In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus challenges all of us to, among many things, to visit the sick. The Covid-19 pandemic has, of course, cancelled almost all visits to patients in hospitals. However prior to the pandemic there was a plan called Care B & B that I helped promote in Ft. Erie to make hospital visiting easier for family and friends. 

Ft. Erie has a population of about 33,000. It has one hospital, Douglas Memorial, under the Niagara Health System or NHS. The latter organization decided to restrict Douglas to having only an urgent care facility, a palliative care unit, a medical care unit, physio therapy and some minor testing. There are 3 major hospitals in Niagara Falls, Welland, and St. Catharines where all the emergency, surgical, medical procedures etc. are carried out. Since these changes patients who are not recovering sufficiently quickly, require further physio, or simply need complex hospital care before discharge are being sent to Douglas and its companion hospital in Port Colborne. The only admissions directly to Douglas are some rare medical cases and palliative care. 

Ft. Erie is about 35 km from the Welland and Niagara Falls hospitals and about 45 from the new St. Catharines hospital. Residents from throughout the Niagara region may find themselves in Douglas. Inter urban public transit is almost non existent in the Niagara Region. Travel to Ft. Erie can be a challenge to visit someone in Douglas in the medical unit or palliative care. The answer may be Care B & B. 

Launched with the support of my rector, Dan Bennett and the assistance of the local Presbyterian minister, who operates an Air B & B, the plan was ready to see if there was sufficient support among 5 other denominations in Ft. Erie to get the number of volunteers needed. 

The plan calls for parishioners in these churches to open their doors for family or friends of patients in Douglas to spend a few nights in a comfortable home rather than have to travel to Ft. Erie. Care B & B would involve the hospital referring family and friends to a coordinating church. This church would then contact a volunteer from a master list submitted by all the churches. The hosting volunteers would be all vetted by their respective churches and would have to meet minimum standards such as a private room with a door. 

People using the facility would be asked to make a donation of $25 per night for a stay that would be generally be not more then 3 nights. The proposal has been vetted and approved by the Town of Fort Erie and the nurse manager at Douglas. 

The churches involved are Anglican, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Baptist, Brethren in Christ, and Roman Catholic. Draft guidelines and a draft Letter of Understanding between the visitor and the host had been circulated to all of the churches in late February.. It has also been vetted by Archdeacon Bill Mous. 

Representatives of all of these churches were asked to meet on April 27 to see if their local governing structures would support the proposal. Obviously that cannot happen at this time, but there is hope that it may be possible later. If it does, family and friends from afar will have a place of comfort to stay when they visit a person in palliative care. 

Please pray for us in Fort Erie. 


The Deacon’s Bench is a regular feature in The Niagara Anglican. Each month we will hear from a Deacon serving a parish under a Bishop’s Letter of Permission. Each will inform us about the ministry s/he conducts in their parish and the wider community.