River Heights Lodge is a long-term care home located in North Battleford, and is home to 97 residents. A COVID-19 outbreak was declared at the home on November 12. The Environmental Services department provided enhanced cleaning during the outbreak, and a number of new staff had to be hired when some staff members were off work because they tested positive for COVID-19, or were found to be a close contact of a positive case. These are their thoughts now that the outbreak has been declared over.
Members of the Environmental Services Team at River Heights Lodge.
Natalie: “When the outbreak was first announced, we all went into emotional overdrive; we were prepared and knew what we had to do,” said Natalie, Environmental Services Supervisor at the Lodge. “We all worked together and tried to stay positive, calm and focused. We got a lot of encouragement, help and direction from so many.”
Lori: “The outbreak is over,” reported Lori Dupuis, manager of Environmental Services and Linen at River Heights Lodge on January 22. “We owe a huge thank you to Natalie and the entire Environment Services team at River Heights Lodge for their dedication to their jobs and the residents at the Lodge.”
Val: “Working through the pandemic has been challenging for environmental services staff, and when the outbreak hit, my anxiety went way up and stayed that way for a long period of time. Now I am starting to feel better. We have no new cases. We made it! Thank God.”
Taylor: “When the outbreak first happened, I felt very scared because I have a baby at home. I was very cautious at work and if I had to go out. I always wore a mask, I followed all the public health advisories. Every day when I would pick up my baby, we would remove our clothes, wash them and shower together. Work was not the same: it was quiet, it was depressing to walk into the facility and not see any residents or hear them talking. Work was exhausting with all the donning and doffing of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to go into each of the resident rooms. I can’t wait to see the residents wandering the halls again soon.”
Alma: “It made me feel helpless, seeing the residents laying in their beds. There was nothing that I could do but try and put a smile on their face. Then I got COVID-19. Staying home for two weeks, I went through every emotion possible. I found it really hard to isolate, then when I came back to work and seeing the residents being confined to their small rooms made me feel privileged that I had a whole house to isolate within.”
Gerald: “I went to work, put on my PPE, mask, shield, gloves, isolation gown, washed my hands all the time, and hoped for a vaccine. I was mostly concerned for the residents, the staff and my family. Things are looking better at the facility today; we have a unit of recovered patients. I hope once we all get vaccinated that this will all be history and we can tell our grandkids about it someday.”
Lorraine: “I have worked in healthcare for 20 years, when COVID-19 hit, it was something I’d never seen before. Yes, it was overwhelming at times, with all the rules and orders to follow, but I go to work just to make life a bit easier for the residents and staff that have become a big part of my life. It is such a great feeling to find a bit of humor with a co-worker or hear a story from a resident that brings a smile to our face. I thank them.”
Lori from the linen department: “Isolation gowns: keeping up with them was a nightmare. I would never have imagined that we could use that many gowns in a day. Our linen supplier was able to keep up with the demand and provided great service during the outbreak. Thank you to the distribution center and KBro.”
Laureena: “It was really hard to work in the PPE. The building is warm and wearing the mask, shield and isolation gown, it was difficult to breathe. On the other hand, once you had all of your PPE on, you felt safe, and it felt good to be cleaning away the COVID-19 virus.”
Vesna: “Mostly I felt sorry for the residents, not seeing family and staying in their rooms.”
Bernada: “In extreme situations, we must always work together, which we did as a team and did a great job.”
Joy: “For me, I don’t feel scared working in spite of the pandemic because I know that God is with us. I believe that the housekeepers are the hidden heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is our responsibility to keep the residents and co-workers safe by providing them a clean and disinfected workspace while following the procedures to stop the spread of the virus. I feel lucky because I have work and lots of people are losing their jobs.”
Phyllis: “Working through the COVID-19 outbreak has been stressful, hard and tiring. Every day felt like there were changes, you never knew what was going to be new when you walked into work for the day. The extra workload was hard. My body hurt by the end of the day. I feel for the residents, they looked sad and lonely. We can talk with them but I feel they really just want a hug. One thing for sure, I will be happy to get rid of the shields so I can breathe again."
Our residents are innocent and so vulnerable to getting COVID-19 that we need you, the public, to do your best job to curb its spread. Our residents here are depending on you to stay safe so that they can be safe too.
Follow good hand hygiene practices, recognize the signs of COVID-19 and stay home if you have any symptoms. Follow all public health orders to keep yourself safe and think about others who may be more at risk than yourself, like the people who live in long-term care homes. Think step by step how to stay healthy and keep others healthy as well.
And please be kind to the health care workers, they are doing their very best to look after your loved ones in long-term care homes that are in outbreak; they don’t make the rules, they are following the rules to try and minimize the number of residents affected by the pandemic.