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Western University med students offer free childcare to healthcare workers

Medical students are putting the time they would be in class to good use, helping colleagues in the healthcare industry manage childcare, groceries and other errands during the COVID-19 pandemic.

About 90 healthcare workers had asked for help as of Tuesday

Montana Hackett, a fourth year medical student, said the idea has gained traction online and similar initiatives are now popping up at medical schools across the country. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

Medical students are putting the time they would be in class to good use, helping colleagues in the healthcare industry manage childcare, groceries and other errands during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Montana Hackett is a first year student at Western's Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry. (Submitted by Montana Hackett)

The idea originated among students at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at Western University, said one of its driving forces. Montana Hackett, a first year medical student, said the idea has gained traction online and similar initiatives are now popping up at medical schools across the country -- including the University of Toronto and McMaster University in Hamilton. 

"It's no secret that health care workers are under a ton of stress right now," he explained.

"What we want to do is take one thing off their plate, even if it's just for a little bit, so they can have some peace of mind and make sure their kids are doing okay at home so they can focus on making sure Canadians are healthy and safe." 

Hackett said students are developing a policy in collaboration with Schulich and based on information from public health officials to ensure they're helping out and not adding to the spread.

"We have very rigorous exclusion criteria," he said. For example, volunteers will be screened and only students who already have childcare experience will be allowed to look after youngsters. 

The policy will consider children, seniors, and people who have compromised immune systems.

As of Tuesday evening, Hackett said more than 100 students had filled out a form to volunteer and about 90 people had reached out for help.

Students plan to start volunteering their time on March 23, after the March Break ends.

"That's an evolving situation and we're watching public health, and if things change we'll change and adapt."

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