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'Everybody is feeling the love': York police donation boosts morale at Southlake

'Everyone is going crazy and smiling, and it’s unbelievable actually how it’s lifted our morale today,' says Darlene Knight, who is on the hospital's COVID-19 room cleaning team, of the day of meals provided to all staff at our three hospitals courtesy of YRPA

It takes Southlake hospital’s Darlene Knight a little longer to clean the rooms in the Newmarket facility’s COVID-19 units, but the patients appreciate the chance to see a friendly face.

Knight, a Newmarket resident and 11-year employee in the Newmarket hospital's hospitality area, was recently redeployed to a cleaning crew that works tirelessly to ensure patient rooms, hallways and nursing stations are cleaned and sanitized during the coronavirus crisis.

“I feel I’m here to give back, that’s how I feel everyday,” Knight said. “To be honest, I have one patient, a lady who said she’s so lonely in the room that when I come in here to clean, it’s so nice to talk to somebody.”

Visitors are prohibited during the global pandemic in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, and Knight believes that is tough on patients sickened by the coronavirus.

“I feel that when I go in the room, I’m giving back. I ask how they are doing today, and they want to talk,” she said. “It’s just unreal, some of the patients are just so thankful for me coming in and cleaning every day, and I take that extra five minutes and actually talk to them. I’m so glad that I can be here and go through this with some of these patients.”

Knight said the isolation that the infectious disease demands is hard on patients and their families. Patients have confided in her that they are distressed, depressed, miss their families, and want to go home.

“You just want to cry, you feel so sorry for them,” she said. “So, while I’m here cleaning, I talk to them. My work takes me a little bit longer to do, but I’ll talk with them and encourage them. I say, ‘You’ll get through this, you’ll get out of here’.”

Each shift, Knight tackles endless garbage bins full of discarded personal protective equipment, and cleaning and disinfecting everything a patient touches in their room. The hallways and nursing stations are also on the cleaning list to ensure the respiratory disease doesn’t spread.

Cleaning staff must gown and mask up and down for every room. When a patient is discharged, there’s more cleaning involved. Curtains come down, walls are cleaned, everything is scoured to ensure the environment is safe and free of the virus and other germs.

The community has helped to bolster the spirits and morale of Southlake staff with car parades and donations of personal protective equipment as they fight COVID-19 on the frontlines. 

And yesterday, all local hospital staff and paramedics continued to feel the love as they were treated to meals throughout their shifts, courtesy of the York Regional Police Association.

This week, the association donated $60,000 to the hospital foundations of Southlake Regional Health Centre, Markham Stouffville Hospital, and Mackenzie Health in Richmond Hill, to provide about 4,500 meals for hospital employees and York Region paramedics at the region’s three health centres. Any money left over will go back to each hospital to help purchase equipment, technology and support patient care needs. 

“Everybody throughout the hospital is feeling the love today with all this food, everyone is going crazy and smiling, and it’s unbelievable actually how it’s lifted our morale today,” Knight said.

“I had an egg and cheese sandwich this morning, then souvlaki with Greek salad and tzatziki for lunch, and then a fruit cup. I still have cookies I haven’t eaten yet, and ice cream, too,” she said. “There’s so much food. I still have another food voucher I haven’t used.”

York Regional Police Association president Rob O’Quinn said health-care workers are “true heroes”.

“Each day, they are on the frontlines putting themselves in the path of danger, so we salute them for what they are doing,” he said. “Our doctors, nurses, therapists, technicians, transporters, paramedics, pharmacists, custodial staff, security and everyone else who helps support patient care deserve our deepest gratitude for their service in caring for our communities and in the fight against COVID-19.” 

Southlake’s president and CEO Arden Krystal noted the overwhelming support local health-care workers have received throughout the battle to contain COVID-19.

“It all helps to make the lives of our staff a bit easier right now and enables us to continue to be by your side. It truly takes a village,” she said.

For Knight, she and her colleagues continue to tear up with each wave and honk of support from the many car parades, the donations of knitted ear savers that make wearing surgical masks more bearable, and even the bags of chips on the wellness carts made possible with donations from the community.

“We have wonderful support here, there’s donations constantly and it helps us with morale and to get through our days,” Knight said. “People have donated so much to us, and the support from the community has really helped our team here.”

“That will stick with us in the end because we’ll remember all the good, and the bad,” she said.