Tillsonburg District Memorial Hospital and Alexandra Hospital Ingersoll reached out to the community on March 27 asking for items to augment their supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the response from the community over the last few weeks “has been tremendous.”
“We are just so appreciative that people recognize the hospital is somewhere to donate,” said Jennifer Row, Chief of Program Development & System Transformation at Tillsonburg District Memorial Hospital and Alexandra Hospital Ingersoll on Friday. “Our surrounding communities have come together – and really all of Oxford County – we’ve come together, we’re working together and we share patients between nursing homes, retirement homes, hospitals, family doctors, homecare… the same patients can often touch all of those different parts of the healthcare system.”
TDMH and Alexandra had asked for nitrile gloves, hand sanitizer (with at least 70% alcohol and preferably foam), disposable isolation gowns (Level 2), goggles (clear plastic with side shields), shield masks, N95 masks and surgical masks.
On Saturday, TDMH put out a call to local industry for empty pump bottles, between 400 ml to 1 litre in size, for hand sanitizer (gel or foam pumps).
“We have had just unbelievable donations coming in from the community,” said Row. “It has been absolutely tremendous.”
Donations from people, organizations and businesses in the area have included “incredible scrub hats” that were sewn for hospital nurses, physicians and healthcare workers. Donated tote bags allow healthcare workers to conveniently carry ‘scrubs’, making it easier and safer for them to throw in the wash together.
“We’ve had all sorts of donations of those come in from individuals and groups. We’ve had food donations come in, too. We’ve had cucumbers, we’ve had boxes of coffee…”
“People have donated boxes and boxes of Girl Guild cookies for us to distribute to our staff.
“We have had an unbelievable outpouring from the community around Personal Protective Equipment. We have received masks, N95 masks, surgical masks, gloves, bootie covers, hand sanitizer, gowns, just all sorts, and we’ve had everything from people bringing in one or two masks to companies… and we’ve had various dentists and doctors and tattoo parlours and all sorts donate Personal Protective Equipment.
“It’s just been absolutely overwhelming,” said Row. “It’s just been unbelievable.”
“It’s been heartwarming,” agreed Loralee Heemskerk, Executive Asssistant, who is the contact person for TDMH donations (firstname.lastname@example.org or 519-842-3611 ext 5303).
“Absolutely,” said Row.
“Loralee has been coordinating this,” Row added. “She is amazing. There is nobody like Loralee – she has been talking to all sorts of people.”
Donations have been arriving at the emergency room entrance doors.
“People have been dropping off bags and boxes,” said Row. “Loralee has set up a little collection box outside of our front doors for hats and totes that people are dropping off.”
Some have made anonymous donations, sometimes leaving boxes of gloves and boxes of masks with no names on them.
“We’ve even had some local businesses who have gotten creative and created some 3D printed face shields. We’ve had people get very creative with little devices – called ear savers – that people use to hook their surgical masks on at the back of their heads so (they) don’t have sore ears. We’ve had hand crocheted ones and 3D printed ones, and all sorts of things. It’s just been really unbelievable.”
There is still a need for more Personal Protective Equipment, said Row. They have not reached a ‘saturation point.’
“The amount of Personal Protective Equipment that hospitals go through is… probably unbelievable for most people,” she said, noting rules for infection prevention and control. “Nurses and doctors can go through quite a lot of Personal Protective Equipment, so we are absolutely still in need of things like gloves and masks – particularly surgical and N95 masks. All of these things are just so welcome.”
If at any point in the future TDMH and Alexandra do reach the ‘saturation point’, Row said any extra donations will be distributed to healthcare facilities in the county.
“If we ever got to the point where we had too many… we would share. We would be able to find lots of recipients for anything. We are not at that point yet.
“Healthcare is a large industry and there is a huge amount of need out there, and things like scrub hats and totes, they are there to protect people’s hair from exposure and they are there to protect people’s clothes, so that they can bring them home and wash them safely. So there is always need for things like that.
“I would say our ongoing and most appreciated donations would be things like masks… but truly, anything that comes in, we are using.”
Oxford Community Health Care
The bright yellow donation box installed across the street from TDMH (on Rolph Street) about two weeks ago is a central repository for Oxford County donations.
“That is a box that is sort of a community collection for all community healthcare organizations and the hospitals,” said Row, noting similar boxes have been installed in Ingersoll and Woodstock. “That is coordinated centrally through the Oxford Community Health Centre, so that’s not really our box. Now, we may be the recipients of some things that get collected…”