August 5, 2020

Countering COVID-19 with kindness: Community Monitoring Program

Kindness is a key value of Northern Health, as is presented in our Northern Health Strategic Plan 2020-24. It is also central to our response to the pandemic and the Northern Health COVID-19 Positive Community Monitoring Program.

The program is a telephone-based service providing both an imaginative and compassionate response for people that test positive for COVID-19 at any of our testing sites. The program operates from 8 am to 5 pm, seven days a week, targeting patients with mild disease symptoms that can be managed at home.

Patients at risk in the COVID-19 Positive Community Monitoring Program are closely monitored with daily phone calls. They are also provided with a hotline to contact the monitoring team for further support, guidance and medical advice during business hours.

Johanna Hayes, Program Director, says, “Since the program commenced just a week ago, 417 patients have received a total of 1,100 monitoring calls.”

“The program was set up in a response to the increased community transmission of COVID-19, and within one week we had robust guidelines, a call centre with six stations, and most importantly amazing staff from many areas. We welcomed staff from Cardiac Rehab, Emergency, Intensive Care and Allied Health disciplines – Exercise Physiology, Physiotherapy and Social Work,” says Johanna.

“The intention is to stay in contact by phone or SMS during the first 10-12 days of symptoms. Some people need and want daily contact and others prefer SMS or less frequent contact. We support patients discharged home and diagnosed with COVID-19 as well from the Fever Clinic,” adds Johanna.

Tom Cooper, Allied Health Physiotherapist, is part of this multi-disciplinary team that monitors patients. He recounts the story of an elderly gentleman isolating at home, with his partner, both confirmed COVID-19 positive. One morning when Tom checked in on him, he found him short of breath and requiring medical attention. The next day when Tom called in, it was the partner who complained of chest pains, resulting in paramedics taking both of them to hospital.

Tom explains the service goes beyond providing clinical support to patients. “Some of them are from a non-English speaking backgrounds and don’t understand what isolation entails,” says Tom.

The team has also assisted patients to access food in the community and obtain emergency food supplies and masks.

Yet another patient said she was grateful for our service, as she, “has not heard from anyone else during her two weeks of isolation.”

After she received a phone call from the COVID-19 Positive Community Monitoring Program, she said she was more comfortable staying at home in isolation as she knew there was someone she could call and also who would check in with her. She was of the opinion our program should be for everyone as it makes a big difference.

“The Northern Health COVID-19 Positive Community Monitoring Program reflects our key value – Kind,” says Johanna.

“Long before COVID-19 struck, we resolved to extend our care not only to the patients who walked in our doors; we envisioned keeping our community, staying well in their own homes.”

“The Northern Health COVID-19 Positive Community Monitoring Program is a natural extension of this,” she adds.

The Community Services Leadership team. From left to right: Johanna Hayes, Anne Marie Fabri and Sue Hull.