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B.C. startup launches app to help swamped health-care workers outside of work

In this file photo, nurse Elana Cohen washes her hands prior to tending to patients as colleague Julie-Anne D'Amico looks on in the intensive care unit at the Montreal Jewish General hospital. The hospital is one of four designated to treat any future patients diagnosed with coronavirus. Friday, Feb. 7, 2020.
In this file photo, nurse Elana Cohen washes her hands prior to tending to patients as colleague Julie-Anne D'Amico looks on in the intensive care unit at the Montreal Jewish General hospital. The hospital is one of four designated to treat any future patients diagnosed with coronavirus. Friday, Feb. 7, 2020. Paul Chiasson/Global News

A Vancouver tech company is launching a free app, meant to help health-care workers manage their lives outside of work as they battle the COVID-19 pandemic.

The app, called Blue, was originally designed to help people who are caring for a loved one with a serious injury, illness or dementia, said Caregiver Support Technologies CEO Tom Masterson.

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Users register friends, family or neighbours into a support team, then put in a request when they need a basic task taken care of, such as meal preparation or groceries.

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The app, which behaves like a chat bot, goes through the support team until it finds someone who can do the task, and coordinates all the details.

Masterson said the company realized that function could be a lifeline to overburdened doctors, nurses and paramedics.

“They’re struggling with, ‘when my job and my responsibilities are so overwhelming, what do I cut out of my personal life?'” said Masterson.

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“Right now, it’s friends, it’s sleep, it’s proper nutrition, it’s exercise. Those are things that professionals are going to lose for the next two months. They’re going to lose all those things unless we start supporting them in a better way.”

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Masterson said users won’t need to prove they’re a health-care worker to sign up, but that he thinks it would be a difficult system for people to abuse.

Typically, somebody will need to have a compelling story for someone to help them anyway,” he said.

It’s one of those things where, you know, ‘am I really going to pick up your groceries for you, Brad? You’re a healthy guy as well.'”

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By that same measure, he said he thinks people will be quick to sign up to help the health-care workers in their life, saving them potentially risky trips to the grocery store, and giving them a little bit more time with their kids.

Users to not need a smartphone to access the service, and Masterson said it will be available to health-care workers across Canada and the U.S. throughout the pandemic.