Across Australia an army of regular people is growing to provide much-needed support to our front line health workers, performing small acts of kindness as they prepare for the biggest public health war since Spanish Influenza.
In the last week, Facebook groups ‘Adopt A health Care Worker’ have sprung up around the country. In the days, the main one, which started in Perth turned from a few hundred to 25,000 members.
Thousands of doctors, nurses, and other frontline workers are paired with regular members of the community who can help them out by bringing them coffee, or collecting something from the store, as they handle the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic.
Lisa Cooke, an emergency nurse from Perth and one of the moderators said it the level of community support had been ‘overwhelming’.
“We’ve had some of the amazing things happen, from our community, and right around Australia. We’ve seen the delivery of chocolates and coffees, there was a pizza delivery to the staff at the in ICU who are fundamental to what we’re about to face,” Ms Cooke told The New Daily.
“I saw a lovely lady, Kaleish, her children who were worried abut wanted to do something, they got some chocolates and wrote a poem, and are trying to get it to Fiona Stanley Hospital.
“She said, ‘Oh it’s just small,’ but to us it’s not small to us.
“We need to shift perception into positivity, that this is not forever, we’ll have a tough time but we’ll get through it unified.”
“We’re anxious too, and it’s as if the community is collectively giving us a big hug at the moment.”
At the best of times, Australia’s frontline health workers have to put up with demanding conditions; a lack of beds, long hours, and occasionally, abuse.
Sophie Hadden, 37, is an emergency nurse who works in Melbourne. She said they have been forced to lock up their masks and hand sanitiser because the public keep stealing them.
In the past 24 hours among a myriad of other patients, she saw a 40-year-old man with acquired brain damage who was being abused by his family, then an ‘old chap’ who suffered from schizophrenia and hadn’t eaten in three days. That was before noon.
On top of this, people have been stealing protective wear.
“We’ve been dealing with people stealing gloves, and masks and hand sanitiser. That in itself is awful, there’s already a shortage. So we’ve got to lock up and count the masks as we do with opioids,” Ms Haddon.
“The crisis we’re seeing is not that people have care, it’s this greed. It’s a stress on our system, it’s resources we can’t afford to be using. That’s the fight we have in emergencies.”
She said it was the little things like a quick text from a friend, that kept her going.
“It’s lovely and empowering in a lot of ways. I’ve had this lovely outreach of support just as I am coming into a moment of crisis,” she said.
In the coming weeks, it may just be that behind every great health worker, is a bunch of strangers willing to help – in any way they can.
Erin Cotter-Smith is an emergency services responder with the Australian Red Cross and trained in Psychological First Aid.
She put herself up to help after speaking to health care workers who are concerned about what is to come.
“Some are worried about their children, others, their older parents,” Ms Cotter-Smith said.
“This group is a fantastic way for health care workers to put their hand up in a safe space and say I need some help at the moment.
“Maybe it’s something like walking their dog while they do extra shifts. Helping out with some household tasks. Just being a caring voice over the phone or online.”
Kay Drayton is a 22-year-old nursing student from Melbourne. She’s been getting groceries and having coffee with health workers.
“I’ve helped out one doctor through the page, finding her some groceries and veggies that she needed, and she actually helped me out too and found me something I couldn’t find in any of my local stores,” she said.
“I went out to a family I know on the other side of Melbourne to take them especially lactose-free milk and gluten-free pasta and cereal for their 10-year-old daughter who was going to have to eat ‘normal’ foods and make her sick.”
Coming from a long line of nurses – her foster mum and grandma both worked in the profession, she says she knows first-hand just how much work goes in.
“And in situations like this, everything is almost tripled, so I have some time available, and I wanted to offer my help where I could,” Ms Drayton said.
“We all need to stick together and look after our communities.”