Front Line of COVID – 19
A message from our Haldimand War Memorial Hospital Interim CEO Sharon Moore.
“The global COVID-19 pandemic is challenging our hospital in a way that’s unprecedented in its 100-year history.
Now more than ever, our front-line service providers are so very grateful for donations that help us provide essential
health care services to our community.”
Heroes on the Front Line…
Now more than ever, our front-line service providers are so grateful for donations that help them provide essential healthcare services to our community.
Please show your support by donating today via www.dhhf.ca, or by calling 905-774-2529
Weekly Heroes will be posted to show our support for our Front-Line.
Hospital Hero – Rhonda, ED Unit Clerk
A lot of paperwork and coordination is required for anyone who comes to the hospital’s Emergency Department (ED). Unit clerks such as Rhonda are the people who handle all of this work.
ED unit clerks work 24 hours a day, every day of the year, typically in 12-hour shifts. Rhonda gathers patients’ information and arranges for such things as x-rays, blood work and other health diagnostics ordered by the physician. She enters and keeps track of all paperwork in patient charts, and also books transportation for patients transferred to other hospitals. She also organizes after-hours patient admission to hospital.
Rhonda has become adept at ensuring all the logistics of the ED’s patient care are well managed, after 20 years working as a unit clerk in the department.
“You never know what’s going to walk through the doors,” she says of the different patient situations that come to the ED. “I need to be prepared and organized at all times.”
While the department was relatively quiet during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, she says traffic is picking up again, now that community restrictions are being lifted and people are beginning to flock to the Dunnville area for summer holiday activities.
“I feel very safe with the PPE we are all wearing and the infection control practices in place,” she adds.
A life-long resident of Dunnville, Rhonda enjoys the family atmosphere of working at HWMH among her fellow staff members and the patients who come to the department.
She says that during especially serious patient cases, the ED staff will be crying right along with patients and family members.
“There are times when everyone has tears, because it’s personal fo
Hospital Hero – Shawntelle, Lab Technician
For some heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s taking twice as much time to accomplish just over half the amount of work. Such is the case for people such as Shawntelle, a lab technician at Haldimand War Memorial Hospital.
Shawntelle collects specimens of body fluids – such as blood, urine and stool samples – for testing in the laboratory. This includes drawing blood and collecting urine samples for people who come into the hospital for tests from throughout the community, as well as from inpatients and patients in the Emergency Department.
Her work in drawing blood may include collecting only one tube or as many as 19, depending on what the physician orders.
Prior to the pandemic, Shawntelle and another technician would draw blood from an average of about 100 people per day in the Specimen Collection Centre, over a four-hour shift. Now, they are taking blood from an average of about 65 people per day over a 7.5-hour shift. That’s because of such heightened infection control measures as spacing patients out between visits, so there’s little contact between them in the waiting area. Also, during the pandemic, people have needed to make an appointment to have bloodwork done – walk-ins are no longer allowed.
Shawntelle has been employed at HWMH for almost eight years. “I wanted to work in a hospital,” she says of her career choice. “I enjoy the small, community hospital feel of HWMH.”
She lives with her husband and three children on a 50-acre property in Smithville. She admits to initially being concerned about being exposed to COVID-19 and bringing it home to her family, but has become much more comfortable now that more is known about the virus, and with the infection control practices in place.
“The PPE we use is no different than before,” she notes, adding that lab technicians have always treated all specimens as being potentially infectious.
Front Line Hero – Carolyn, Therapeutic Recreationist
When Edgewater Gardens closed to visitors due to the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-March, staff at the home decided they needed to develop new ways to connect residents with their family and friends. Adding extra activities would also help keep residents from feeling gloomy or isolated.
For Carolyn, a therapeutic recreationist, that meant her part-time job suddenly became full time.
“A huge part of our work in therapeutic recreation has been connecting residents to their families through Facetime and Zoom computer applications, window visits and – now that the weather is warmer – bringing residents to the back balcony or behind the fence in the courtyard for in-person visits,” she says.
Recreation activities such as card making, bingo, mini-putt golf, euchre games and gardening are continuing, but with smaller groups of residents who are physically distancing. While there’s frequent hand washing and use of hand sanitizer, residents are not wearing masks. None have tested positive for COVID-19 these past three months, so any risk would be coming from the outside. As a result, all staff are wearing PPE and engaged in enhanced infection control while at work.
In addition to her therapeutic recreation role, Carolyn is also the spiritual care provider at Edgewater – using her faith to lead residents in prayer, one-on-one visits and church services. No stranger to the piano, she also travels with a keyboard down the hallway of residents’ rooms, playing music and leading them in song. “I feel it’s a gift to be working at Edgewater at this time,” Carolyn says, adding that it’s gratifying to be part of the team working to keep residents’ spirits up when much of their normal lives have come to a halt.
Hospital Hero – Mary Jane, Maintenance Worker
Not all heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic have direct contact with patients. Many are working behind the scenes to ensure hospitals can continue to operate safely and effectively. One such person is Mary Jane, who – until she retired at the end of May after 30 years of service – was responsible for the laundry at Haldimand War Memorial Hospital.
Three times per day, Mary Jane travelled with a large cart to various areas of the hospital to pick up soiled laundry for processing and cleaning at the central laundry facility for local hospitals in Hamilton. On average, she handled about 60 large bags of laundry each day, and ensured orders were placed to keep the hospital adequately supplied with linens at all times. When the laundry came back, she distributed it to the patient care units.
Since the Operating Room and outpatient clinics have been closed for non-essential care these past few months, the demand for clean laundry has been less than usual, she says.
Mary Jane was also responsible for garbage collection, including both regular garbage and biohazard waste, which is separated into designated yellow bags. Regular garbage is picked up by a contractor for disposal in a landfill, while biohazard waste is sent out to be incinerated.
While she did not enter patient rooms, Mary Jane did wear a mask and gloves at work, as an infection control precaution.
Even though health care workers continue to be on the front line of the COVID-19 virus, Mary Jane says she will miss working at HWMH.
“While the COVID-19 pandemic was scary at first, I knew I was protected and this was what I signed up for, she says. “It’s the best job I ever had. Everyone at the hospital is like a big, happy family.”
Hospital Hero – Kendra, Personal Support Worker
Of all the health care professionals working in long-term care homes such as Edgewater Gardens, personal support workers (PSWs) are usually the ones with the closest bonds to the residents. That’s because PSWs tend to residents’ routine health and hygiene needs, while also providing comfort, encouraging independence and being a friendly, ongoing presence in the home.
Never has this role been more important than now, with the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in nursing homes being locked down across the province since mid-March. Kendra has been a part-time PSW at Edgewater for the past 12 years, in addition to her role as wife and as a mother to two young boys. She was raised in Dunnville, where her parents still live, but her family home is now in Welland.
She recognizes why so many people in the community are supportive of the employees in health care settings like Edgewater at this difficult time. With friends and relatives limited to interaction with residents via facetime on computers, “We’re the only ones here who can show them love right now,” she says. “They’re like our grandparents.”
Kendra’s introduction to health care began when she was a young child. After her brother died from a rare form of muscular dystrophy, her family decided their experience in caring for him could be useful in helping other chronically people, and for many years they provided respite care in their home. For Kendra, health care became the logical choice for a career. “I love my job, the residents and my co-workers at Edgewater,” she says. “I’m extremely proud of our team in helping to keep our residents safe.”
Hospital Hero – Lisa, Medical Radiation Technologist
While the current COVID-19 pandemic has meant less busy work for medical radiation technologist Lisa, she and her team expect things to change quite a bit very soon.
Once the tourist season begins, and camps and cottages open up, more people will end up in the Emergency Department and more will need X-rays and CT scans.
In the meantime, patients are still coming to the ED with symptoms such as chest pains, and suffering from injuries including automobile accidents. Even those patients transferred to a larger hospital for specialized care typically first have radiology work done at HWMH.
“These days, as a precaution, we are assuming that every patient who comes to us is positive for COVID-19,” Lisa says. This means wearing PPE for an entire shift – which can last up to eight hours, either starting at 8 a.m. for days or 3 p.m. for afternoons. “By the end of the shift, you really feel the dryness in your lungs and nasal passages from wearing the mask,” she explains.
Lisa lives in Dunnville with her husband and three grown children, and has been working at the hospital for nearly 10 years. “I love science and technology, and also helping people,” she says of her decision to become a medical radiation technologist.
As for working at HWMH, she likes that she knows many of the patients who end up in the department for X-rays and scans, and can help make them feel comfortable about the procedures.
“We treat people the way we’d like to be treated,” she says.
Hospital Hero – Dr. Jeff, Emergency Department Chief
While the volume of patients coming to the Emergency Department at HWMH has decreased dramatically, the patients who do show up are generally sicker than before. Plus, there’s always the possibility that some of those patients are positive for COVID-19.
These are the challenges facing the Emergency Department health care team and, in particular the challenges facing Dr. Jeff, the chief of the hospital’s ED.
“Our situation is more complicated than before, and a bit scary,” he says. “The patients we are seeing are waiting until they really feel ill, and our emergency physicians need to have experience in diagnosing and treating a variety of conditions – some of them complex.”
“In a small-town hospital such as ours, we don’t have the layers of back-up that big cities have – such as a trauma team, and other medical and health care specialists.”
The COVD-19 situation is adding another layer of complexity, resulting in more infection control procedures, and therefore adding to the time to assess and treat patients. “We’re doing a lot of procedures differently now,” Dr. Jeff says, but adds he’s thankful there’s now a brand new Emergency Department at the hospital to provide a much better environment for patient care.
As the department chief, much of his time is spent developing new policies and guidelines in line with what’s happening in the larger city hospitals, and in coordinating a seamless delivery of care between HWMH and the St. Catharines site of the Niagara Hospital System– to where the sickest COVID patients are transferred. “As an institution we’ve done an amazingly successful job, from the administration to front-line staff,” Dr. Jeff says. “But that doesn’t mean we can let our guard down. We likely have a long way to go in this pandemic situation.”
Hospital Hero – Sherry, Director – Inpatient Unit
After 50 years of employment at HWMH, Sherry retired at the end of April having faced the biggest challenge of her nursing career – the COVID-19 pandemic.
While she says health care has been a constant stream of changes and challenges over the years, none have occurred at the scale and speed as during the past few months.
Sherry began her career as an obstetrical nurse, at a time when babies were still being delivered at the hospital. “I loved it; it was exciting,” she recalls. “We delivered on average a baby a day and most of the time it was a very happy experience.”
Sherry admits she decided to become a nurse because she didn’t want to be a teacher,” emphasizing the limited career choices considered appropriate for women a half century ago. It was a profession she enjoyed, having worked continuously on a full-time basis – even while raising her children.
As the director of HWMH’s Inpatient Unit, Sherry was responsible for managing bed and staff allocations in preparation for a possible influx of COVID-19 patients, participating in daily conference calls with other hospital senior managers, training members of her team, and keeping on top of the unit’s enhanced infection control protocols.
“We’ve all been very careful, and have needed to be sure we don’t become relaxed about it,” she says of the special precautions being undertaken by the hospital.
Hospital Hero – Carol, Dietary Aide
An important part of the operations of a hospital and long-term care home involves ensuring patients, residents and employees receive nutritious meals. Dietary aide Carol is one of the people who is part of the team that ensures this happens at HWMH and Edgewater Gardens.
Every day, 64 Edgewater residents and up to 35 hospital patients are fed three meals per day, along with about 30 staff who go to the cafeteria on weekdays for lunch or continental breakfast offerings.
Carol has worked at the hospital for 37 years, doing just about every food service job available. She now spends her days in the office, and is responsible for such things as ordering food and managing inventory.
Among the challenges she is now facing during the COVID-19 pandemic is securing food supplies. “We’re having some trouble getting in fresh fruit and vegetables, so we make do with frozen or canned,” she says.
Another change is the use of paper plates and plastic cutlery for residents of Edgewater – instead of ceramic dishware and metal utensils – as an added infection control measure.
Reluctant to consider herself a “hero” during the current pandemic, “We’re just doing our jobs,” Carol says, noting that everyone on the dietary team is being extra cautious to ensure patients and residents are kept safe.
Hospital Hero – Ann, Housekeeper
In more than 35 years of working in local hospitals and nursing homes – the past 15 at HWMH – the COVID-19 pandemic has made Ann’s job as a housekeeper more critical than ever.
Ann works eight-hour shifts from Monday to Friday and is assigned exclusively to the Emergency Department for the foreseeable future. The highly contagious nature of the coronavirus means the level of cleaning has been raised even higher than usual.
Wearing full PPE, Ann is constantly wiping down all touch points in the department, as well as equipment, walls and floors. “All I do is clean, clean, clean,” she says. In rooms that have been occupied with patients suspected of being COVID-19 positive, she must wait an hour to enter – to ensure any virus droplets have fallen to the floor.
The Dunnville resident describes the current environment as “scary” but says it’s also a very heart-warming. “Everyone here at the hospital is working hard as a team,” she says. “It’s amazing. We’re all family, and everyone is a hero.”
Hospital Hero – Andrew, Emergency Department Nurse
From the time he was a teenager volunteering in a hospital in Northwestern Ontario, Andrew knew he wanted a career in health care. As an ER nurse at HWMH during this current COVID-19 pandemic, his commitment to patient care is stronger than ever.
“This is what we signed up for,” he says of himself and his fellow health professionals. “We’re trained to handle this. I’m not that worried about becoming infected, but want to stay well so I can continue working to support the community.”
While Andrew continues his 12-hour hospital shifts, he is living alone in the family home in Caledonia, while his wife and two children stay with his parents in Gananoque, nearly 400 kilometres away. With his wife laid off from her job in a home decoration store, he’s grateful to still be working and collecting a paycheque.
An ER nurse at HWMH for the past three years, Andrew previously worked in a psychiatric unit in a hospital in Yellowknife, and more recently in the ER and Intensive Care Unit at a major Hamilton hospital. While there, he was a member of the Ebola preparedness team, which helped provide him with the knowledge and skills to care for patients of this current pandemic.
“I like the opportunity to step into moments when our skills are especially needed, and I get a great satisfaction out of helping patients,” he says.
He emphasizes that he’s impressed with the health care team at HWMH and with the support provided by management during this challenging time.
Please visit Haldimand War Memorial’s Website for the latest COVID-19 updates