Thoughtful Albertans lifting holiday spirits of health-care workers with messages, gifts

From trucks decked out in Christmas lights to homemade holiday cards and cookies, people in the Edmonton area have been doing their best to cheer up health-care workers amid rising rates of depression.

A recent Canadian study shows levels of stress, anxiety, depression and burnout have increased among health-care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the survey, half of nurses and one in five physicians have considered quitting since the pandemic began.

Jaimie Marchand, the unit manager of the emergency department at the Grey Nuns Hospital, says most shifts have been short-staffed for months due to staff isolating after possible exposure to COVID-19.

“People are working extra shifts or staying past their regular work hours,” said Marchand, a registered nurse.

READ MORE: Staffing shortages leading to burn-out at Calgary hospital amid COVID-19 outbreaks: unions 

But a recent donation of 200 gourmet cookies brought much needed cheer to her team. The boxes were addressed to “Health Care Heroes,” “Wonderful Humans” and “Lovely Life Savers.”

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“Even the titles of the envelopes for the cards were just so uplifting,” smiled Marchand.

“How we show each other affection is usually through food and through hugs, and neither is allowed anymore.”

Beaumont restaurant Chartier had to get special permission from Covenant Health to donate the treats.

“I think it’s important to remember that (health-care workers) are doing so much for us, and (we need to) show gratitude in just the little ways that we can,” chef Spencer Berge said.

Ron Costain and his son Stephane strung rows and rows of LED Christmas lights over their Heartlands Water Services truck and a mini-bus. They drove the festive vehicles around five hospitals on Sunday, hoping to cheer up patients and staff.

“(The pandemic’s) got to be emotionally hard on (health-care workers) too,” said Costain.

“Anything we can do to take their minds off it for a few minutes is great.”

“(The Costains) were honking their horns and everyone was waving from inside so that was really fun,” said Nicole Veronovici, director of Alberta Kidney Care North.

Veronovici, who is the chair of the University of Alberta Hospital’s wellness committee, said small gestures can be a big boost for exhausted medical teams. Working during the holidays can be difficult in a normal year, let alone during a pandemic.

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“We used to have so much community involvement at this time of year… schools, choirs, organizations come in and provide a lot of festive cheer,” she said.

Edmonton-area hospitals have seen a number of thoughtful gifts lately, including hundreds of poinsettias from the City of Edmonton, a “thank-you” poster and coffee gift cards from a local family, plus cards from local students.

Neither Alberta Health Services nor Covenant Health are allowing gifts to be dropped off. AHS encourages donations to the Food Bank instead, or kind messages for staff here.

Covenant Health wants positive social media messages to include the hashtag #liftingspirits.

Marchand points out the best holiday gift a health-care worker can receive is for everyone to wear a mask and stay safe, to avoid a surge of patients after Christmas.

“It is a huge fear for all of us here in the health-care world, and we need everybody’s help to please, please help prevent that from happening,” said Marchand.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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