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3 ways to meet the essential needs of your frontline staff during Covid-19

April 2, 2020

    Amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, health care workers are struggling to take on essential tasks like grocery shopping, parking at work, and childcare. These daily tasks—now difficult for most people—are practically impossible for health care workers who are continually on the frontlines.

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    But health care organisations can make an active difference in the daily lives of their staff—here's how:

    I. Help frontline staff readily access food and basic household necessities

    1. Ask local supermarkets and grocers to set up special hours for providers.

      It can be hard for health care workers to get to the store—and when they do, supplies may be limited. Ask local supermarkets to dedicate a specific time slot for health care workers, and to establish a dedicated, reserved supply of essential goods that frontline staff can purchase. For example, in the UK, Ruth May, the chief nursing officer for NHS England, asked supermarkets to offer health care workers protected time slots for shopping by health care workers, in addition to the existing slots for the elderly and at-risk populations.

    2. Reach out to local food providers to arrange stable delivery of meals to hospitals.

      Many suppliers are willing to provide free meals to health care staff; the key is to enable safe and efficient delivery to care sites, and communicate options to staff. For instance, in the United States, the healthy fast-food chain Sweetgreen has set setup storage 'outposts' in hospitals to deliver salad bowls and healthy snacks to hospital workers.

    3. Route donations through a single, centralised team to redistribute to those most in need.

      Philanthropy, advancement, or chaplaincy services are well-suited to this task, keeping clinical phone lines free. For example, in the UK, Harrogate Hospital created a new donation protocol to boost efficiency: All donations must go through the Community Charity Fundraising Team, who then distribute resources to individual acute and community care sites.

    4. Publicise your centralised donation pathway on your organisation's website, being sure to include necessary contact information.

      You can also post requests for specific goods, as well as messages of appreciation and acknowledgment from frontline staff.

    II. Waive or revise parking fees for frontline staff

    1. If your organisation operates a carpark, waive or reduce parking fees for frontline staff.

      For example, in the UK, NHS Scotland and NHS England have both announced staff do not have to pay parking fees at hospital and care site carparks. Even private carpark operators in the UK have begun to offer free parking for NHS staff.

    2. If your organisation's car park is privately operated, work with the operator to waive/reduce fees or subsidise employee parking.

    3. In urban settings with limited parking capacity, ask neighboring car parks, both public and private, to waive or reduce fees for frontline staff.

    4. Be sure to effectively communicate to staff any steps you take to waive/reduce parking fees.

    And while not necessarily an example that's easily re-created, in Australia, some individuals have pitched in to help health care staff with parking, as in the case of this nurse who had her parking ticket paid by a Good Samaritan.

    III. Help frontline staff meet childcare needs

    Frontline staff report that securing childcare is their most pressing issue during COVID-19, after ensuring access to adequate personal protective equipment.

    1. Contact local childcare providers and nanny services.

      With childcare sites closed and many parents working from home, a large number of childcare staff are unemployed. Provide clear communication to staff about the options available if they wish to hire private child support. For example, in Australia, there's a proposal to re-employ the roughly 125,000 out-of-work childcare staff as nannies.

    2. Consider broadening any existing financial childcare benefits to temporarily include nanny services.

      Many organisations have existing contracts with individual childcare centers; with these centres now closed, re-allocate resources to subsidise the cost of childcare at home.

    3. For organisations with on-site childcare, consider relocating staff and children to off-site locations.

      Many shuttered, off-site childcare centers can be redeployed to care for the children of frontline staff. For instance, in Canada, the Ontario government is opening special childcare centers for the children of essential workers.

    4. Explore new labour pools to provide childcare support.

      Medical, social work, and education students are largely learning from home or no longer in class and have many skills that make them effective childcare support workers and babysitters. For instance, in the United States, hospitals in Portland, Oregon, partnered with local medical schools to have medical and dentistry students provide childcare support for health care professionals.

    For further resources, see how you can protect your team’s resilience during the coronavirus pandemic.

    How to prevent and respond to staff burnout during the pandemic

    We recently shared tactics to prevent and respond to staff burnout during the pandemic. Access the slides here.

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