A physician-led grassroots group is on a campaign to digitally connect families with patients who can’t leave their room during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since April, Frontline Connect Canada has been working with partners to provide free devices to patients in hospitals and care facilities, uniting family and friends using IOS and Android-driven devices.
“We’re a group of physicians and medical students, veterinarians, students, I.T. from all walks of life that just realize that this was something that was so very important,” said Dr. Simerpreet Sandhanwalia, an emergency physician at Hamilton Health Sciences.
Sandhanwalia, one of the doctors who helped create the initiative, says the idea came amid staff using their own phones to create a human connection for those who simply could touch base in person due to no visitor policies in local hospitals.
“So I’m an emergency room physician and we saw that patients were coming in due to heightened infection control policies by themselves,” said Sandhanwalia, “and it was actually quite gut-wrenching to see patients by themselves when they were at their most vulnerable, alone and isolated in sort of these strange places like hospitals.”
The program is very similar to an initiative Haldimand County mayor Ken Hewitt spearheaded, in which iPads and headsets were collected through donations in April to share with families that had relatives isolated in the region’s care homes hit by outbreaks.
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The idea was an alternative fundraising campaign in light of the 9th Annual Mayor’s Charity Gala in Haldimand.
The Frontline program so far has collected close to 300 devices which have been donated to four Ontario hospitals, and 63 hospices and care facilities.
The devices stay in the hospitals they’ve been donated to and go through a strict protocol in which each device is cleaned regularly.
Should the group acquire enough devices in the future, the hope is to keep each device with patients throughout their hospital stay.
Sandhanwalia says the initiative is also strict about the devices they can accept.
“We welcome all devices as long as they have at least those sort of minimum operating systems, because ultimately what we sort of need for our apps.”
Frontline’s minimum requirements are tablets or phones with a minimum of IOS 10 for Apple devices or Android 4.4.
“People can go to our website at frontlineconnect.ca, and this is somewhere where they can find out where to donate,” said Sandhanwalia.
“If there’s facilities out there that need our help, you can also request for help from this website.”
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.
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