On January 31, 2007, Ontario's Critical Care Strategy hosted a workshop for healthcare providers examining cultural and religious perspectives on patient care in the intensive care unit (ICU). The workshop provided an opportunity for the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) to engage service providers and discuss important issues regarding cultural and religious perspectives affecting critical care service delivery in Ontario. While a favourable response to the workshop was anticipated, the truly remarkable degree to which the more than 200 front-line healthcare providers, policy developers, religious and cultural leaders, researchers and academics who were in attendance embraced the need for this type of dialogue to take place suggests that discussion around this and other "difficult" issues related to care in a critical care setting is long overdue.
Without exception, the depth of interest in being able to provide patient-centred care in its most holistic sense - that is, respecting all aspects of the patients' needs, including cultural and religious - is a top-of-mind issue for many people involved in the healthcare system, whether at the bedside or the planning table.
This article provides an overview of that workshop, the reaction to it, and within that context, examines the need for a broad-based, non-judgmental and respectful approach to designing care delivery in the ICU. The article also addresses these complex and challenging issues while recognizing the constant financial and human resource constraints and the growing demand for care that is exerting tremendous pressure on Ontario's limited critical care resources. Finally, the article also explores the healthcare system's readiness and appetite for an informed, intelligent and respectful debate on the many issues that, while often difficult to address, are at the heart of ensuring excellence in critical care delivery.
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