Helping the Helpers: Our Volunteers Support Hospital Staff During COVID-19

By Sakshi Selvanathan and Samadhee Attanayake

It is no novel revelation that COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on Sri Lanka and the localities within the island – and the national medical system is no exception to the rule: it has also been put under severe strain as a result of the epidemic’s devastating impacts.

Thus, it was in consideration of the high transmission rate of COVID-19 in hospitals like the Kandy National Hospital, that the number of clinic patients allowed to visit the premises was limited by the management: patients were advised to contact their doctors over the phone and their medicine was delivered via post. This distancing method consequently increased the workload for medical staff: they had to sort, pack and post the medicine to each patient individually. They were also tasked with the responsibility of linking the patients to the relevant doctors for over-the-phone consultations and had to respond to emergency cases in the hospital as well.

Hence, with the objective of alleviating the burden of the taxed medical staff, SLRCS volunteers were deployed to assist them. Stationed at general admission points, the eye clinic and the pharmacy, the volunteers were assigned to answer phone calls received from patients and to link them with the relevant doctors. They did this whilst supporting the medical staff to manage the crowd within hospital premises by issuing tokens for patients and guiding them to the required points, lessening the risk of roaming and making them comfortable during the pandemic situation. In addition to this, the youth volunteers engaged in the sorting, packing and labeling process of medicine at the pharmacy section.

A pertinent fact was that the volunteers helped aged people who were unable to read when sorting out their medicine packs, because only the patient was allowed to enter the room. A volunteer stated that a very old woman had remarked with smiling eyes that: “You are all so smart in your jackets and are kind hearted. We did not expect such a service at a government hospital during such a stressful period”.

The patients were not the only individuals thankful for the support: the medical staff gave glowing remarks about the assistance lent by the dedicated youngsters. The fact that these noble front-liners had to be apart from their loved ones – subsequently causing them mental torment in addition to the physical exertion of working amid COVID-19 – made them more grateful for the volunteers’ assistance. Some volunteers even noted that the faces of the medical staff would light up with relief when the former arrived for the day.

In summation, the medical professionals at the front lines of the COVID-19 epidemic are truly ‘healthcare heroes’, and our volunteers are always prepared to assist them.

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