‘We were in the trenches together’: Healthcare staff reflect on bittersweet final day of COVID-19 assessment centre
By day’s end Friday, the COVID-19 assessment clinic at Windsor Regional Hospital (WRH) will close, more than three years after opening at the height of the pandemic.
“This moment in time is so special,” Kelly Heron, director of in-patient surgery, said. “We all have an opportunity now to look back as to how far we came.”
Heron was a member of the leadership team that supported the development and operation of WRH’s assessment and vaccination centres.
“We didn't have any of those blueprints or plans. What we had was a team that was dedicated and they all brought their talents and we developed it,” said Heron.
Patty Boucher, unit clerk for the assessment centre, remembers working in the in-patient clinic in March 2020 with, “the management team just going through with clipboards and looking around at things and boom — two days later it was the whole unit was converted into a COVID assessment to treat the public.”
Since then, nearly 191,000 people walked through the clinic at Ouellette campus.
“You'd see people coming in crying. You could feel the fear off of them,” said retired registered practical nurse Shelley Farrand who returned to work to help with pandemic.
“When you work with people for over 30 years, your work family becomes part of your family. And I wanted to be able to help them, as well as our community,” said Farrand.
She would stay on until March 31, 2023, for the assessment centre’s final day.
Farrand told CTV News one of the most motivating parts of working through the pandemic was when hospital CEO David Musyj and members of the executive helped with a drive-thru swab event at St. Clair College.
“You’d see them out in the hot sun, swabbing,” said Farrand. “It makes you feel safe. Like if they're here and they don't have to be, then we're safe. So that's what I liked and I'm grateful for our leadership team.”
Boucher said she never felt unsafe at work, in fact, quite the opposite.
“I felt more secure here at work because we had the PPE because we were so well taken care of. I felt more secure at work than I did out in the public, going for groceries,” said Boucher.
With the assessment centre closing, the staff will now return to the jobs they had and maintained throughout the pandemic, excluding Farrand who will return to retirement.
Farrand said however, “I’d do it again!”
“I’m so glad that everyone can get back to some semblance of normal in their everyday life,” said Heron.
The group agrees it’s a bittersweet moment.
“I think everyone, in whatever department you belong to, said ‘what can we do to help?’” said Heron. “And I feel like this was my part that I could do to help and I couldn't have done it without all the staff.”
“We worked in the trenches together. We laughed together, we cried together, we vented (and) we shared stories. The people I will miss greatly,” said Boucher. “The clinic has run its course and it's time to move on. And I am actually looking forward to moving on to the next step of my career.”
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