COVID-19: Here’s how you can take care of the people caring for us

As the impact of the coronavirus pandemic hits the Lower Mainland, frontline staff at Burnaby Hospital are working tirelessly to ensure their patients get the care they need.

Now, as the number of people with COVID-19 continues to climb and pressures on hospitals mount, one question looms large — are we prepared?

“We are going to do everything we can to ensure we are taking care of the people who are taking care of us,” says Kristy James, CEO of the Burnaby Hospital Foundation.

Last week, the Foundation launched its COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund.

The goal is to raise funds to purchase urgently needed equipment to deal with a potential influx of cases needing emergency care. Some of those needs include ICU beds, C-MAC videolaryngoscopes, cardiac monitors, and as the situation continues to evolve, other equipment as requested by Burnaby Hospital’s health care professionals.

“We want to be prepared for every issue our frontline staff might face by having the proper equipment on hand,” James says.

The fund will also support frontline workers who have been risking their own health to take care of patients’ needs.

The Foundation has been in contact with local restaurants and food producers to prepare meals and snacks to keep staff energized, and is also working with hotels which are starting to offer self-isolating rooms so staff can rest. Both initiatives are expected to ramp up to a greater extent in the coming weeks.

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There is a deep sense of camaraderie at Burnaby Hospital, which is much like a community within a community. - supplied

Even though many Burnaby residents are feeling the financial strain of the economic lockdown, James says the community outpouring has touched the hearts of everyone at Burnaby Hospital.

“Our call volume has been through the roof,” she says. “We’re overwhelmed with the generosity of the community and the outpouring of concern for our hospital staff. People want to know what they can do to help.”

One family has stepped forward with a generous gift, offering to match up to $100,000 of all donations the Foundation receives through the Emergency Response Fund. Pyarali and Gulshan Nanji, along with their four children, have long been supporters of health care initiatives—across all of Canada. Their dedication to help during the current crisis, according to the family, continues their mission of giving back in gratitude to the country that gave them refuge after fleeing Idi Amin's Uganda in 1972.

However, behind the willingness to help, for some people there is fear. People have heard and read the news about hospitals in Italy being decimated by the severity of the illness borne by a staggering number of patients. They know that doctors, nurses and hospital staff were themselves dying after getting infected by patients. As everyone in Burnaby does what they can by staying at home, they also want to know that, if they get ill, the hospital has the resources it needs. Italy is a warning bell — and everyone is listening.

James is gratified but not surprised by either the hospital staff’s reaction to the epidemic or the community’s generosity.

“Burnaby Hospital is a community within a community. There has always been a deep sense of camaraderie,” she says. “We have doctors and nurses who have been there for more than 30 years. Coming in to work to take care of their colleagues and community is important to them.”

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The goal of the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund is to raise $500,000 for urgently needed equipment. - supplied

This same sense of community extends into the various Burnaby neighbourhoods. Caring for your neighbour has always been part of the ethos of Burnaby, one of the most culturally diverse cities in Canada. There’s a history of people here rallying together in the face of adversity.

“Just seeing how all of humanity and our communities are coming together and working towards the same goal is quite inspiring,” James says.

The goal of the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund is $500,000. Any leftover funds remaining once the crisis has passed will continue to be invested in emergency care and equipment to ensure Burnaby Hospital is even better prepared the next time something like the COVID-19 pandemic occurs.

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