Nova Scotia

How Nova Scotians can support hospitals, health-care workers in COVID-19

Nova Scotians looking to help hospitals like the IWK Health Centre are asked to not drop off physical items, but to give financially if they can.

Regular donations of toys, quilts and knitted newborn hats are being turned away

Nova Scotians looking to help hospitals like the IWK Health Centre are asked to not drop off physical items, but to give financially if they can. (Shaina Luck/CBC)

As Nova Scotians deal with layoffs and isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, many are still looking for ways to help out patients and staff in the province's hospitals.

At the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, the Maritimes' major pediatric hospital, regular donations of physical things like toys, quilts, and knitted newborn hats are being turned away.

It's a temporary but necessary reality to protect health-care workers and follow the restrictions on public access for hospitals, said IWK Foundation president Jennifer Gillivan.

Right now, she said the best way to help, for those who can afford it, is to continue monthly donations or start giving to a local hospital foundation.

"If more pressure comes on, or supplies dry up in some way — you don't know where the needs are, so having the flexibility of a fund that can actually pivot ... is really critical," Gillivan said. "It's day to day. It's changing all the time."

For those who can't give right now, Gillvan said that's expected.

"Wash your hands, say your prayers. We know you'll be there at the other end of this when we all get out of it."

Jennifer Gillivan is the president and CEO of the IWK Foundation. (CBC)

Donations to the IWK Foundation currently go directly to buy personal protective equipment like masks and gloves, virtual health care, supports for children with complex needs, and virtual diagnostic imaging stations, but Gillivan said that list will likely grow.

She also said the funds allow IWK staff to act like an "oxygen mask" for the rest of the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) when they need help.

For example, the IWK is working closely with the NSHA to care for additional patients as needed. This may include providing medical care for teens 16-18 years old, who would usually go into the adult hospitals, in order to relieve pressure on the whole system.

Pediatric patients with complex needs usually provided elsewhere are being transferred to the children's hospital as well, IWK Health Centre spokesperson Ben Maycock said in an email Thursday.

They are also forming plans with the health authority around pediatric and maternity care related specifically to COVID-19.

Businesses and citizens looking to help front-line doctors, nurses and all the other 24,000 health-care workers in the health authority also have a new way to provide support.

Partners for Care, a non-profit and the business development arm of the QEII Health Sciences Centre, has broadened its scope to the whole province during the pandemic.

Jane Davies, the group's executive director, said it will launch a website in the coming days highlighting local businesses and groups offering discounts, services and other help for health authority workers.

Partners For Care will launch a website in the coming days highlighting local businesses offering discounts, services and other help for Nova Scotia Health Authority workers, such as food, grocery delivery and takeout. (Atstock Productions/Shutterstock)

They are especially interested in those who can help with food, grocery services, takeout, coffee, gas and fuel, home and car needs, drugstores, accommodations, and physical and mental well-being.

Although the online hub has yet to launch, Davies said they've already heard from more than 30 organizations across Nova Scotia after putting out a release on the project Monday.

Those include tailors offering free alterations on hospital uniforms, places offering free coffee or free delivery on healthy meals, and discounts on hotel rooms if people need a safe space to sleep.

"It's quite eclectic, and it's really great evidence of the spirit of Nova Scotia wanting to do something for our health-care heroes," Davies said.

It also doesn't have to be a discount. Davies said they are also looking for convenient services health-care workers might use.

For example, fitness groups have offered virtual classes that work with hospital staff's schedules, while others have offered assistance in filing taxes.

'Generosity never surprises us'

For individuals looking to lend a hand, Davies said online donations to the QEII Foundation's COVID-19 response fund will go directly to staff as well.

"Being a Nova Scotian, generosity never surprises us," Davies said. "But it is a very overwhelming, positive sense and brings joy to your heart knowing that in this time we aren't alone. There are people out there who want to help."

Partners for Care "helpers" must fulfil certain criteria, including: be either convenient, discounted or free for all health authority staff and physicians, although the scope can extend to contractors and private workers; be operated through a properly licensed and insured business; and comply with all rules like proper hygiene and physical distancing.

Businesses interested in helping can email partnersforcare@nshealth.ca to find out more.

Offers of personal protective equipment like masks, hand sanitizer and other items are being managed through a separate process. Companies in these fields should contact PPEOffer@nshealth.ca.

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