Signs on the doors of the emergency department at Shuswap Lake General Hospital in Salmon Arm spell out the need for everyone who enters to be screened for COVID-19. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)

Presence of auxiliary volunteers missed at Salmon Arm hospital during pandemic

Shuswap Lake Health Care Auxiliary still chips in two iPads so patients can connect with families

The emergency department entrance to Shuswap Lake General Hospital looks much different than it did two weeks ago. 

In keeping with provincial directives on COVID-19, everyone entering the facility must be screened. Signs on the front door make that clear.

The second change is a new greeting station and the absence of those well-known, red-uniform-clad volunteers of the Shuswap Lake Health Care Auxiliary. Because of a provincial directive aimed at keeping people safe, volunteers are no longer permitted and staff members have taken over the duties.

Jackie LaTosky, co-ordinator of volunteers at the hospital and Bastion Place, speaks highly of the auxiliary members and all they do for the hospital under normal circumstances.

“We really depend on them; they’re a huge part of the hospital,” she said. “We miss them immensely when they’re gone.”

On the level 3 emergency department entrance, a volunteer is normally on hand to guide people to triage or to various parts of the facility such as diagnostic imaging or the lab.

On level 4, prior to the pandemic, hospital auxiliary volunteers would be equipped with a patient list so could help people find their friends or family members. Level 4 is also home to the auxiliary’s gift store, which provides a variety of items from baby clothes to toothbrushes.

The auxiliary also provides emergency clothing for people who may need it as well as comfort kits with items like combs and toothbrushes.

Now, the doors at level 4 are closed and level 3 is the only entrance. Visitors are very restricted, with the rules available to see on the Interior Health website.

Read more: Dedicated volunteers raise close to $200,000 for hospital

Read more: Ongoing support of Shuswap hospital earns platinum honour

Read more: Hospital auxiliary tops CT scan fund

At Bastion Place, a multi-level care facility, visitors are also restricted with a few exceptions such as family members on compassionate end-of-life visits.

Prior to the pandemic, 22 youth health-care volunteers were split between the hospital and Bastion, 14 at Bastion and eight at the hospital.

The hospital auxiliary provides annual scholarships for three of the youth volunteers in Grade 12.

LaTosky is aware that the auxiliary has nearly folded twice due to lack of volunteers and she’d like to see people sign up, once the restrictions of the pandemic have been lifted.

Edie Swanson, president of the Shuswap Lake Health Care Auxiliary, agrees more participation is crucial.

“Our auxiliary was in danger of folding and I didn’t want it to fold so I stepped up as president for the third time,” she said.

Because the auxiliary wasn’t able to hold its giant garage sale at the Mall at Piccadilly and the gift shop isn’t open, its bank balance isn’t too healthy, she said.

Nonetheless, the auxiliary agreed to a request from a social worker this week to purchase two iPads for the hospital so patients can stay in contact with family and friends.

The dedicated group raised $185,000 for equipment and comfort items for the hospital from 2011 to 2018.

Swanson is hopeful that once the Mall at Piccadilly is up and running, the auxiliary will put up an information display to recruit new members.

“If we have to fold that’s a shame as we provide such a wonderful service to the hospital and the community.”

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