Health PEI staff find help at the COVID-19 Wellness Hotline
Jennifer Bartlett-Bitar was in a tight spot. It was Friday, Jan. 7. The first major winter storm of the season was approaching Charlottetown with forecasts of up to 40 cm of snow. The storm was just starting when her son received the text.
“My son was a close contact of a case of COVID-19,” said Bartlett-Bitar. “It’s a concerning text to get at any time, but the snowstorm was happening. He went into isolation right away, and he waited to be tested when the testing centre re-opened.”
Bartlett-Bitar works as a manager of speech language pathology and audiology with Health PEI’s Public Health and Children’s Developmental Services. As the weekend progressed, she began to consider her own potential exposure and what that meant for her work.
“I was a close contact of a close contact,” she said. “You want to be responsible and clear on who has to isolate and who doesn’t. That’s when I remembered the COVID-19 Wellness Hotline.”
Bartlett-Bitar had read about the Health PEI COVID-19 Wellness Hotline in a staff memo just a few weeks earlier. The hotline is staffed five days a week to answer questions and offer support to Health PEI staff who need it during the pandemic.
“I sent an email explaining our situation, and I heard back right away,” she said. J.D. Gilmour, occupational health and safety officer, returned her call and helped Bartlett-Bitar navigate the situation right away.
“They were understanding. They were caring. It was just what I needed.”
“J.D at the hotline was so supportive,” she said. “He answered all my questions. He was so understanding and responsive. He sent me a fast pass so I could get into the testing clinic when it re-opened after the storm. It was so slick and convenient. I was back home within the hour.”
“These are the exact scenarios we were envisioning when we started the hotline,” said Allison Wyatt, Manager of Wellness & Safety at Health PEI. “This is a stressful time. Staff have all sorts of needs and worries. The hotline is a one-stop-shop for any question or concern they might have about COVID-19.”
Hotline staff can assist with navigating childcare needs and provincial programs. They can expedite access to the Employee Assistance Program. They provide dozens of fast passes a day to COVID-19 testing clinics across the province so Health PEI staff can keep safely working in the midst of pandemic.
“Health PEI employees are so dedicated to meeting the health care needs of their communities and providing responsive, person-centered care throughout the pandemic,” said Gilmour. “It feels great to be able to do the same for them, whether it’s support with access to testing, information about isolation and work isolation, or help with their mental health and wellness. I think everyone on this team would agree that it’s inspiring to serve the amazing health care workers who have stepped up despite the additional stress that has been placed on the health care system.”
Bartlett-Bitar’s son’s test came back positive, so she and her family went into isolation anyway.
“He’s never had any symptoms, thank goodness. He gets his meals delivered outside his doorway by his mother,” she said with a laugh. “We have been very lucky.”
When Bartlett-Bitar reached the four-day mark of her isolation, she reached out again to the hotline for another fast pass. She and the rest of her family all tested negative, and they were able to return to regular life.
“The hotline just gave me this extra level of guidance to navigate what was a confusing time,” she said. “I have encouraged others to use it, as well, for the reassurance. This is a resource offered to us we should be taking advantage of and it’s staffed by people who add a caring, human touch. I cannot recommend it enough.”
The COVID-19 Wellness Hotline is available Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.