Patients at Nova Scotia Health’s East Coast Forensic Hospital receive first dose of COVID-19 vaccine

Greggory Maher, a patient at ECFH receives his first dose of COVID-19 vaccine from ECFH RN Erica Comeau

“I don’t understand the word quit,” said Greggory Maher, a patient at Nova Scotia Health’s East Coast Forensic Hospital (ECFH). “I sent out a lot of emails across the health system requesting all patients at ECFH receive the vaccine. It was very important to me.” 

Maher was a strong advocate for patient vaccinations. 

He even spoke to a couple of patients at the facility who initially said no to receive the vaccine, who changed their minds to say yes. 

He described just how important is was not only to him, but his fellow friends and patients that live at the facility. 

“With some of the COVID-19 visitor restrictions in place, many of us weren’t able see our friends and family, making us feel very isolated,” he indicated. 

Neil Burns, a fellow friend and ECFH patient, echoed his comments. 

“It was important to me to be vaccinated so I could go home for visits with my family, and see my grandfather,” said Burns. 

Dr. Brad Kelln, a forensic psychologist at EFCH, said that it was a feeling of relief for patients at ECFH to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“For most patients, the biggest emotional response to the news of the vaccine’s arrival was relief – finally there was news that suggested an end to the roller coaster of restricted community access and uncertainty,” he said. “We saw there was far more support for getting the vaccine, than reluctance to participate.” 

Dr. Kelln, along with other psychologists including Dr. Andrew Starzomski and Sarah Urquhart, developed strategies, and worked closely with the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology to anticipate any potential feelings of uncertainty or hesitation among patients towards the vaccine. 

The nurses of ECFH were also instrumental in their ability to talk and support patients prior to administering the vaccine. 

They received vaccine administration training through Nova Scotia Health Public Health. 

“Our ECFH nursing team was very excited to bring the vaccine here to the facility,” said Cara-Leah Hmidan, health services manager. “We understand the importance of immunizing our vulnerable patient population.” 

Even as patients and staff are vaccinated, depending on rates of illness in the community, visitor and pass restrictions may still be required in hospital settings.

ECFH works in partnership with the Departments of Health and Wellness, and Justice. 

ECFH has a mentally ill offender unit where court ordered assessments are performed and treatment is provided to inmates diagnosed with mental illness. 

ECFH also has two rehabilitation units, which provide treatment for individuals who have been found Not Criminally Responsible (NCR) or unfit to stand trial by the Nova Scotia justice system. Patients are under the jurisdiction of the Criminal Code Review Board. These individuals are assessed, participate in treatment programs and work with their health care team to safely re-enter the community.