One of the major coronavirus-related questions being asked by members of the Waterloo region and Guelph communities is ‘how can we help?’
With that in mind, a group of doctors in the area have launched a website called Covidhealth.ca, which will allow people to lend a hand.
The effort is being spearheaded by Dr. Sarah Rinaldi, who practices in New Hamburg, Ont., and her husband, Robert, who is part of a team at Design.Local who work with not-for-profits.
Rinaldi said it was born from hearing stories of people in the community looking to lend a hand.
“I’m a member of a bunch of social groups of physicians and every day I was just seeing more and more posts saying, ‘I have a friend who has a 3D printer and they’re looking to get involved’ or ‘I know this person in the community, they have boxes of masks or gloves. How can we donate them?’”
You know, I think people really want to help in the community and they’re just kind of yearning for the direction on how they can actually do this,” Rinaldi said.
Rinaldi said doctors are doing their best to treat patients online and over the phone but in some cases, they have no choice but to wear protective equipment for an in-person consultation. This will cause them to burn through limited supplies fast, which is why they are hoping for assistance.
“If we’re changing this equipment with every single patient, we’re going to run out in about one week,” she said. “So we did a survey and found that about 50 per cent of clinics in this area will run out in about a week.
“We want to be able to keep helping. This is why we all went into medicine in the first place.”
CovidHealth.ca was launched less than a week ago and Rinaldi said it quickly garnered support.
“I’ve really been humbled by the response,” Rinaldi said. “Within a few hours we had, you know, over 30 emails coming in with people saying, ‘how can I help?’”
She said local libraries have been offering a hand as well as the Westmount Golf and Country Club. She said the club has offered to store everything and has volunteers who will drive supplies to doctors in the area.
“This is really important to me because we obviously want to encourage that idea of social distancing,” she said. “So we don’t want people just kind of running around with their supplies, trying to figure out where to take them.”
Some of the items they are looking for are related to keeping doctors healthy so they can keep the public healthy.
“At this point in time, public health has recommended just the surgical masks,” Rinaldi said. “So we need the surgical masks. We need gloves. We need gowns that are disposable so that we can change them in between each patient.
“If we don’t have even one of these items, you know, we’re not going to be able to care for the patients because we increased the risk of spreading.”
The website offers people a chance to donate space, time and money to the cause.
Janice Sousa, whose sister-in-law is a doctor in the Waterloo region, is chipping in on the project to try and allow doctors more time to focus more on their patients.
She said the site has launched a GoFundme campaign, which has already seen people donate more than $4,000.
“It’s really to cover any costs we incur,” she explained.
Sousa said the site will also direct people on how to donate as well.
She is keeping in touch with similar operations in London, Ont., and Toronto in an effort to share ideas and avoid duplication.
Sousa said she is hoping that people who would not normally think of donating supplies will get a chance to do so.
“For the general public, it’s really, ‘hey, can you look in your garage or your businesses may be closed? Can you actually go back to the business and see what we could use?’”
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