Inside the walls of the QEII Health Sciences Centre, healthcare workers like Kathryn Roberts (from left), Charlie Heinstein and Marcy Carter are continuing to bravely step up for Nova Scotians when we need it most.
Originally published on thechronicleherald.ca.
Inside the walls of the QEII Health Sciences Centre, Charge Nurse Kathryn Roberts prepares for each shift by taking her temperature and changing into scrubs that never leave the building. When her shift is over, she carefully washes up and changes into clean clothes, but there’s always the risk she’s bringing COVID-19 home with her.
She’s one of thousands of healthcare workers continuing to bravely step up and scrub up for Nova Scotians when we need it most.
“Every day, we’re preparing for the worst, and hoping for the best,” says Roberts, who works in the COVID-19 Intermediate Care Unit (IMCU) at the QEII’s Halifax Infirmary. “But to have the entire province behind you is so encouraging. It really helps light that fire inside of us as we walk into the unknown.”
Roberts says she and her colleagues at the QEII have been “overwhelmed” by kindness from the community, from restaurant discounts to front-of-the-line privileges to make it easier for them to buy groceries in between long shifts.
“We’re seeing such an outpouring of love and support from people we don’t even know,” says Roberts. “We’re doing whatever we can to care for Nova Scotians, and we’re eternally grateful they continue to support us.”
As the Technical Manager of the Microbiology Lab at the QEII, Charlie Heinstein and his team are used to being “hidden away in the lab,” working quietly without much outside interaction.
But now they’re working long, intense shifts to process as many COVID-19 tests as possible, and Heinstein says it’s been a “big change” to suddenly have the community gratefully rallying around them.
“We’re not looking for recognition, but hearing that people are appreciating the work we’re doing has really encouraged us to keep it up,” says Heinstein. “We’re going to be here for as long as it takes, providing this testing for as long as it takes.”
With more than 700 physicians and 7,000 staff, the QEII is the largest adult health sciences centre in the region. It couldn’t continue to treat patients safely without dedicated professionals to sanitize and disinfect around the clock.
“Our job was always important, but now it’s more important than it’s ever been because we’re the first line of defense in trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” says Marcy Carter, the QEII’s Housekeeping Supervisor.
Communication has been key. They’re holding daily safety meetings, undergoing regular training and making sure everyone understands the newest disinfecting protocols. Many housekeeping employees are even spending their days off working at COVID-19 clinics around the province.
“Our staff are embracing that this is a group effort and we all have to be a part of it,” says Carter. “We’re doing the job we’ve always done, only now it’s more intense.”
She says the best way Nova Scotians can thank their healthcare heroes is by following provincial guidelines on social distancing, hand-washing, wearing masks and staying home as much as possible.
“We’re coming to work every day, risking potential exposure and then going home, so we want everyone else to do their part as well.”
Jessica Campbell, Community Inspiration Officer with the QEII Foundation, says it’s been heartwarming to see communities across the province step up to show their support for QEII teams. Social media posts with the #QE2HealthHeroes hashtag are displayed on a special page online, as well as shared directly with QEII employees.
Campbell says it’s also been inspiring to see individuals and businesses holding virtual fundraisers to support the QEII COVID-19 Response Fund — providing urgently-needed medical equipment and supplies to support frontline healthcare teams.
“What we’re hearing is that it’s empowering to feel like you can have some semblance of control right now,” says Campbell. “The community has stepped up like we’ve never seen, and we’re so proud.”
Even before Nova Scotia had a handful of positive COVID-19 cases, Roberts and her team were involved in overhauling the entire infrastructure of their COVID-19 IMCU — adding more negative pressure rooms, finding ways to effectively seal off patient spaces to keep the virus contained and creating safe spaces for staff to enter and exit.
These were just some of the immediate needs that quickly emerged in direct response to this pandemic. As healthcare needs evolved, the QEII Foundation established the QEII COVID-19 Response Fund to support top priority items required to combat the virus and support patients and frontline workers.
Some of the priority items are expensive and urgently needed, which is why donations to the QEII COVID-19 Response Fund are so critical. Funds raised will purchase items like electronic stethoscopes and portable ultrasound machines — as well as items to assist with patients’ at-home care, like portable nebulizer units and oscillating positive expiratory pressure devices.
Roberts says the donations — which are usually accompanied by a note of thanks — mean so much to the QEII’s frontline healthcare teams as they push through uncertain, difficult and sometimes devastating days.
“Nova Scotians have found a way to come together while still staying apart, and to me that’s a really rare and beautiful thing.”
To read and submit messages of support for QEII teams working on the frontlines during COVID-19, visit QE2Foundation.ca/QE2HealthHeroes or use the hashtag #QE2HealthHeroes on Instagram or Twitter. If you’re able, please consider donating to the QEII COVID-19 Response Fund.