New Brunswick

Only 100 of 4,000 volunteers answering 'urgent' call put to work

More than 4,000 New Brunswickers have responded to the province's "urgent" call last month for volunteers to help with the COVID-19 pandemic response, but so far, only about 100 have been put to work.

Province drew strong response when it asked for volunteer help for pandemic

Volunteers are needed for everything from administering vaccinations and COVID-19 testing to office administration and food preparation, the province has said. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

More than 4,000 New Brunswickers have responded to the province's "urgent" call last month for volunteers to help with the COVID-19 pandemic response, says the Department of Health.

But so far, only a small fraction of them have been put to work.

"Approximately, 100 individuals have been deployed throughout the regional health authorities and long-term care facilities in both clinical and non clinical capacities," said department spokesperson Bruce Macfarlane.

He did not explain why the number isn't higher, but the province has said "priority will be given to people who can fill areas of highest need."

Issued call for paid, unpaid volunteers

Training specific to the work to be done, including health and safety measures and the use of personal protective equipment, will also be provided, the province has said.

On Jan. 18, the province issued an urgent call for paid and unpaid volunteers to help with the clinical and non-clinical pandemic response.

"We need your help," Health Minister Dorothy Shephard has said, citing increased hospitalizations and staff absences because of the Omicron variant putting pressure on all aspects of the health-care system.

Within 24 hours, 1,600 people had signed up and Shephard asked for more.

"Please pass along the word to neighbours, family members and friends to see if they can also give us a helping hand in this fight against the Omicron variant," she had said in a statement.

The call for volunteers was a response to a number of people who had reached out, offering to help, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard told CBC News earlier. (Government of New Brunswick/YouTube)

"Over 4,000" have now responded, said Macfarlane.

Of those, "1,000 meet the requirement for clinical roles, while the remaining 3,000 individuals could potentially help support in non-clinical capacities," he said in an emailed statement.

Clinical work includes administering vaccinations and COVID testing, patient services and personal support work.

The non-clinical work includes clerical support, office administration, logistical support, data entry, customer service, and food preparation and delivery. 

He did not provide a clinical versus non-clinical breakdown of the roughly 100 people already volunteering and did not say how many of them are getting paid.

Shephard has said whether someone gets paid will depend on what they'll be doing and their skill sets.

The New Brunswickers who responded to the call out have not only boosted morale, and bolstered a sense of community but will play important roles in the health care and long-term care settings as we navigate this wave of the virus.- Bruce Macfarlane, Department of Health spokesperson

Macfarlane did not provide any specifics about the roles they're filling or where they're working.

But he did say they're having a positive impact.

"The arrival of the Omicron variant has put additional stress on New Brunswick's health-care system as COVID-19 cases increase, and hospital employees and resources are compromised by the need to isolate, or take sick leave.

"The New Brunswickers who responded to the call out have not only boosted morale, and bolstered a sense of community but will play important roles in the health care and long-term care settings as we navigate this wave of the virus."

Range of help needed

Asked whether there is still a need for particular expertise and/or help in a particular location, Macfarlane replied, "Support is required in a variety of health care and long-term care settings, from allied health professionals to registered and practice nurses.

"For non-clinical work, clerical support, office administration and customer service."

People who are double vaccinated and boosted and interested in volunteering are asked to complete an online form.

"Each volunteer will be contacted," the province has said.

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