Victoria News | Local Breaking | CTV News Vancouver Island
Health-care workers looking to isolate get help from their communities
B.C.'s Royal Jubilee Hospital is seen in a CTV file image.
VICTORIA -- While everyone is being asked to isolate at home, that is not the safest place for front-line workers to be during the coronavirus pandemic. Hundreds of health-care workers are looking for a second home so they don’t have to risk exposing their families to COVID-19.
"I work to help others get better," says Lina Smurthwaite, a health-care aide at Royal Jubilee Hospital. "The last thing I want to do is get somebody sick, and that person could die."
Smurthwaite lives in a two-bedroom apartment with her husband and two kids. She says even though she takes every precaution, she is worried that she could bring the virus home. To try and reduce the risk, she isolates in her bedroom, but says she'd feel better being out of the house.
A group of volunteers is trying to help health-care workers find other places to stay. Heather Conquergood is an organizer of YYJ Healthcare Workers Housing, a website that aims to connect front-line workers with property owners willing to rent at a reduced rate.
"We are collecting information from property owners on what they have available, and then sending those avaibilites to the workers that contact us," says Conquergood.
To keep everyone safe, they will only accept suites that match a specific set of criteria: they must be furnished and have a separate entry and private laundry. The idea for the website was sparked by a single social media post, from a nurse desperate to find a place to stay.
"If they have a separate place to go shower, sleep, and cook a meal in between shifts, it stops them from taking it home to their families," says Conquergood.
Another volunteer group is looking to get health-care workers set up in hotels. Tracie Clayton says she has been reaching out to different hotels to see if any can house staff. The Howard Johnson in Royal Oak and the Holiday Inn Express in Colwood are both offering reduced rates, and to block off entire floors. The Accent Inn in Victoria is also making rooms available to those who need them.
Clayton says many hotels have some guests and must remain open anyways.
"If they are able to do this for health-care workers, they are able to keep some workers employed,” she said. “This slow little bit that drips into the local economy is really, really important, as we go into these uncharted times."
Health-care workers are currently receiving no additional support from the government, meaning the rent for their second homes is coming out of pocket. It is the reason they are calling on the community to help out.
"Help us isolate, help us stay at work, and please stay at home," says Smurthwaite.
YYJ Healthcare Workers Housing says it is looking for suites available for rent, and any interested property owners can fill out a form on the website.