Life has changed in some way for everyone since the COVID-19 pandemic began. For those who work in health care, those changes have been felt both at home and at work.
In late 2020, Interior Health put together a team of nine pandemic health coordinators, who coordinate supports for people who need extra assistance to self-isolate due to COVID-19. To date, the team has supported more than 2,300 people to isolate safely.
We do everything from conducting mental health check-ins and assessments, ensuring access to food, finding suitable accommodations, to helping those with complex care needs, or safer supply assessments and connections. We also assist with getting clients back to their home communities after they’ve been hospitalized due to COVID-19.
When communities face challenges such as increased numbers of people with COVID-19 in shelters, or how to support those who are isolating during a community evacuation, our team gets called in to help. Flexibility and creativity are key aspects of the work we do.
There's no real "typical day" for a pandemic health coordinator. It all depends on what is happening in the regions we support. On average, we support 45 to 55 people in isolation each day, and the Omicron variant has certainly increased our already heavy workload.
I think that the most meaningful experience that the Pandemic Health Coordinators have had in common is the feedback we receive from the clients we support. We typically call these folks on a daily basis, trying to address and assess their needs while they’re quite unwell, all while keeping up with the referrals we are constantly receiving.
From being able to find a way to ensure a new mum who was in isolation would still be able to send her baby in NICU her milk, to ensuring folks who were medically evacuated and then discharged made their way home safely -- each of us has dozens of examples that have made this opportunity incredibly meaningful. We are health-care workers during a pandemic, supporting clients who are sick with COVID-19, and that is, in and of itself, meaningful to us.
As an immigrant to Canada, I’ve always felt a very strong sense of responsibility to give back to my community. This role has been a phenomenal exercise in this regard. I am passionate about ensuring folks who are marginalized and vulnerable have access to equitable health care, and this team and role have been integral to ensuring this. I'm incredibly grateful I've been able to help our communities respond to the pandemic.
Dr. Bonnie Henry said it at the beginning of the pandemic, and I've tried to practice it ever since: Be kind, be calm, be safe.
Now, more than ever, we need to keep up the good work we have all been doing. I encourage everyone to get vaccinated (including your booster dose), wear your mask, and follow public health guidance so that we can, hopefully in the near future, enjoy whatever our new normal will be.
About the author
Virginie Fostroy is a social worker and works with Interior Health as a regional pandemic health coordinator