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University of Alberta med students offer child care to doctors amid coronavirus pandemic

As Alberta parents scramble to find child care amid coronavirus pandemic, others step up to help
WATCH ABOVE: (March 17, 2020): Neighbours are already stepping up to help out with child care after Alberta decided to close schools and daycares because of the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 100 University of Alberta medical students are offering volunteer child care to physicians and other front-line health-care workers as a way to keep them on the job during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The students came together after the province announced Sunday that in-person post-secondary classes would be cancelled amid the spread of the novel coronavirus. The child-care service is offered by third- and fourth-year students who were temporarily pulled from clinical rotations, the U of A said in a media release Friday.

READ MORE: Alberta reports province’s 1st COVID-19 death, officials working on plan to enforce new rules

First- and second-year students are also helping where possible, but have greater limits because they have to keep up with online classes.

“I’ve been so impressed by just how quickly (people have stepped up) and how vocal students have been about wanting to help,” said Jillian Schneider, a fourth-year medical student at the U of A who is helping organize the initiative.

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The child-care service will be offered until March 27, when the students may be reassigned to clinical duties. So far, about 150 physicians and health-care workers have signed up.

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“We all feel a duty to support our communities as much as possible,” Schneider said. “Just because we can’t be on the wards doing admissions and seeing patients doesn’t mean we can’t offer our time and support to give our front-line health-care workers the help they need right now.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus — Edmonton daycare hoping to reopen

The university said medical students are consulting with public health workers to ensure they are taking all appropriate precautions to prevent possible transmission of COVID-19.

Precautions have been taken to restrict one student per family, according to the university, and hygiene and other best practices are being followed.

Pop-up child care offers appear on social media to help Calgary parents during COVID-19 pandemic
Pop-up child care offers appear on social media to help Calgary parents during COVID-19 pandemic

The U of A said the service will be discontinued if the student or any family members are exposed to COVID-19 or start to show symptoms.

Other university students are also trying to help where they can. Some are seeking approval from health officials to help staff 811 phone lines, amid long wait times to get through to Health Link, the university said.

“It’s truly a grassroots effort,” Schneider said. “But if we can help an infectious-disease physician stay on the wards, do their job more effectively and take some of the stress off, then I think we’ve done our job.”

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Alberta Health announced the province’s first death related to COVID-19 on Thursday. For the latest information on the cases in Alberta, visit the government’s website.