GNB requesting volunteers for COVID-19 response

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The Government of New Brunswick (GNB) issued an emergency call for volunteers to assist the healthcare system amid the height of pandemic response efforts.

(Horizon Health/Website)

On January 18, GNB issued an immediate news release asking volunteers to help with both paid and unpaid positions. According to Health Minister Dorothy Shephard, these positions are for “…anyone who can assist with clinical and non-clinical work to come forward,” and are resulting from increased hospitalizations and staff absences.

The province says specific training will be provided for the work that needs to be done. This includes health and safety training; protective equipment is supplied alongside personal and community protective measures.

Work that needs to be done

“We need your help,” says Shephard in the news release, “whether you are retired, non-practicing, or unlicensed – if you have the experience that can help, please reach out to us.”

The clinical work includes giving vaccines, administering COVID testing, patient services, and personal support work.

Non-clinical work includes food preparation, clerical support, office administration, logistical support, data entry and customer service.

Anyone interested is asked to complete an online form. Each volunteer will be contacted but priority will be given to people who can fill areas of highest need.

The response

A practicing PSW at St. Josephs Hospital doesn’t agree with the government asking people to do so much work for free during a pandemic saying,

“We are in a crisis. The hospital beds are filled in as quickly as we can empty them. We need help, but no one can afford to work for free these days. We as nurses go to school and pay for school, so we can’t expect others to do our work for free. It’s not right they are asking for volunteers.”

When describing the hospital, they said that nurses are overworked, “practically running”, and said that the help is desperately needed. “I just don’t think asking for volunteers is the way to go about it,” they said.

A second-year nursing student at UNBSJ agreed that asking for volunteers is an issue, saying: “From my perspective, I do see it as an issue. Since I have to be directly exposed to COVID in my clinical, I need special training on infection control, using PPE properly, and standard precautions. That in itself takes time and practice as well. If we can supply the resources, that’s fine, but there needs to be an investment.”