Being a healthcare worker during a pandemic

Image of Nick Seebruch
By Nick Seebruch
Being a healthcare worker during a pandemic
COVID-19 screeners at the CCH. Submitted photo.

CORNWALL, Ontario – Life has changed dramatically for everyone because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but likely none more so that those working on the frontline at the Cornwall Community Hospital (CCH).

Since the pandemic began, the CCH has seen rules and regulations around staff, patients, and visitors rapidly change.

The hospital’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has become a COVID-19 assessment centre and at time of writing, they have tested roughly 200 individuals. Cornwall currently has 10 positive cases of COVID-19. There are 61 cases currently across the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) region. Five of those cases have been hospitalized with three in the CCH’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

Dr. Lorne Scharf, Chief of Staff at the CCH and an Emergency Room (ER) doctor explained ways that the hospital has changed to cope with the pandemic.

Dr. Scharf explained that the ER had been re-arranged to better adapt to infection control, but that the CCH ER already had a leg up in that area.

“The ER was designed right after the SARS crisis, so it is designed with this in mind,” Dr. Scharf said.

Dr. Scharf also gave his insight on what it feels like to go to work as a healthcare worker during a pandemic.

“It feels different going into work,” he said. “Every step you take you feel like you are a lot more deliberate. We’ve always had risk as healthcare workers, but in this particular case it is particularly scary.”

Dr. Scharf said that all of the staff have shown great levels of dedication, pointing to one doctor who worked at the CCH for 30 years who came out of retirement to help with the pandemic.

“I think it has brought out the best in everyone,” he said.

The CCH has implemented several new measures to keep the staff healthy and safe during the pandemic.

Sarah Kaplan in the COVID-19 Staff Wellness Lead at the CCH and she explained that the hospital was screening all employees entering at both entrances, and that staff who have symptoms of COVID-19 or test positive are sent home.

The CCH’s support for their staff also extends to emotional support, Kaplan giving the example of an employee who is coping with being unable to see her grandchildren.

“You have the stuff that everyone else is dealing with, but you also have to go into work,” she explained.

“Concerns with their situation at home are a real concern for a lot of staff who are also family caregivers,” Kaplan went on to say.

Kaplan hoped that local grocery stores might be able to ease the burden on healthcare workers by giving them a dedicated time to shop separately from the rest of the clientele, much as they have done for seniors.

Kaplan gave a few tips for how patients, staff and general residents of Cornwall can cope with the pandemic, and social distancing.

  1. Understand the facts around the virus and risks to yourself.
  2. Take a break from COVID-19 related news as to not get burned out.
  3. Take care of your body
  4. Go outside everyday.
  5. Develop a plan for things you fear.

“It is normal to experience sadness and anxiety, but if you find it is having a negative impact, then it is time to try and seek out help,” she said.

Kaplan said that those who have a loved one in the hospital, and want to give them, or any other patient some support can always fill out and send an e-card, which are available on the CCH’s website

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