Belgian hospital pioneers pet visits to patients
SINT-TRUIDEN, Belgium — A Belgian hospital has built a pavilion to allow pets to visit patients who are in palliative care or with illnesses that require long-term care in a bid to boost patients’ wellbeing.
Most hospitals worldwide do not allow pet visits for reasons of hygiene and contamination risks, and for years long-term patients at the Sint-Trudo hospital who wanted to see their pets had to do that in the hospital courtyard.
But in conversations between cancer patients and hospital psychologists, the idea grew for a dedicated indoor space – separate from but connected to the hospital – and the result is a pet visit pavilion that opened last month.
“For long-term hospital residents, mental wellbeing is very important in their recovery, and reconnecting with pets really helps,” said spokeswoman Miet Driesen at Sint-Trudo in Sint-Truiden, Belgium.
Funded by a cancer charity for 140,000 euros ($152,000), the new space allows patients to meet with pets one hour per week. For now only dogs and cats are allowed.
For patient Greta Donnay, 56, recovering from a listeria infection, a reunion with her dog Rambo was a boost to morale.
“Seeing your dog in itself does not cure you, but it gives you a lift,” she said, adding it also means a lot to the animal. “You cannot explain to a dog what’s going on and why you’ve been absent,” she said.
From September, the hospital also plans to use the pavilion for sessions with a charity that uses therapy dogs for mental and motor skill rehabilitation.
So far most of the visit requests have been for dogs, but cats are also allowed.
“With cats, it is usually more a case of patients being worried about their cat than the other way around,” Driesen said.
($1 = 0.9210 euros)