How Queen’s students are aiding in the COVID-19 fight

PPE Kingston, Student-run Community Support Program (SCSP) respond to COVID-19 crisis

PPE Kingston organizes some of the supplies they received last week before donating them to local healthcare facilities.
Anna Curry

Queen’s students are responding to the COVID-19 crisis by providing local health care facilities and community members with the supplies they need during the pandemic.

PPE Kingston

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Kingston is collecting a range of protective equipment for local medical facilities, including masks, gloves, gowns, goggles and face shields, as well as hand sanitizer and hand soap.

The organization was formed by a group of Queen’s medical students, including Anna Curry, Thomas Ritchie, Archita Srivastava, and Linda Archila.

“We also have about 50 volunteers from [Queen’s School of Medicine] who have been contacting businesses and doing pick-ups of supplies,” wrote Anna Curry, QMED ’20, in a statement to The Journal

Curry, whose husband is a family physician in Kingston, started seeing a need for PPE in the community clinics as well as in local hospitals while she was completing her anesthesiology rotation at Kingston General Hospital (KGH). 

They have also partnered with a group of mothers who are either physicians or residents on maternity leave, or who are the partners of a physician or resident, including Krista Steychyson, Genevieve Bureau and Sheena Nandalal. 

“The main motivation for our group is the acute need for PPE by our frontline healthcare workers. This need has been evident for several weeks now, and the first wave of COVID-19 has not even hit us yet,” Curry wrote. “[O]ur goal is to get as many supplies as possible to bridge this gap in the coming weeks, while the government works out a way of sourcing PPE on [both a] national and provincial scale.” 

The group has not been tracking the amount of supplies collected until now. However, according to Curry, they have been receiving a “steady stream” of donations, including thousands of masks and gloves, from the community. 

“Of note, we received 1,000 KN95 masks from the generous Queen's alumni Anatoliy Melnichuk [head of sales at Groupon] and Michele Romanow (from Dragon's Den) last week, which went to the Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC),” Curry wrote. “We also received an amazing donation of 2,000 masks from the Gananoque Home Hardware Building Centre this week.”

Due to the high demand for additional protective equipment at this point of the pandemic, she added that these supplies are being distributed to healthcare workers by their partners at the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) shortly after they are donated, based on need.

They were recently approached by the OMA to expand their efforts across the entire South East Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), an area encompassing Quinte, rural Hastings, rural Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, Kingston and Lanark, and Leeds and Grenville, by launching a new website that will ensure all of South Eastern Ontario receives necessary protective equipment during the pandemic.

Those interested in making a donation to PPE Kingston can access their GoFundMe campaign or follow them on Twitter for more updates on their operation. 

Student-run Community Support Program

Having launched in the last few weeks, the Student-run Community Support Program (SCSP) is a new organization that delivers groceries and provides social contact for vulnerable populations in Kingston.

SCSP was founded by a group of medical students, including Valera Castanov, Vanessa Giuliano, Nia King, Ruchit Patel, Daniel Shi, and Jenn Campbell. They also have representatives from the Schools of Nursing, Physical Therapy, and Occupational Therapy.

According to Daniel Shi, SCSP communication and outreach coordinator and QMED ’22, they were inspired by the University Health Network [UHN] OpenLab Friendly Neighbour Hotline that organizes volunteers to deliver groceries for seniors in Toronto. 

“During the COVID-19 crisis, it has become increasingly difficult for [seniors and other vulnerable populations in Kingston] to obtain groceries, especially with the risk of going out to large crowds,” Shi wrote in a statement to The Journal. “We thought it would be great if [they] had the support that UHN offered Toronto.”

By having volunteers deliver groceries, they are trying to reduce the risk of vulnerable populations becoming infected by entering public spaces.

“As [QMED] students, we all followed a member of the Kingston community with a chronic illness for our first year (as part of the "First Patient" program),” Shi wrote. “We also began to recruit volunteers from members of the Faculty of Health Sciences, which have similar programs, to reach out to former patients and offer support.” 

Individuals can also request to be paired with a volunteer, who will contact them weekly via phone. Shi explained that this initiative is aimed at reducing social isolation and promoting inclusion and wellness, while COVID-19 preventative measures like social distancing are in place.

“We added this as part of our initiative to connect the health sciences students with members of the community, and our goal is to address senior isolation,” wrote Shi. “After the COVID-19 crisis ends, we plan to expand this component and include in-person visits.”

SCSP has also reached out to low-income housing buildings for seniors to advertise their program and expand their reach of services.

“[W]e recently obtained funding from the Ontario Medical Student Association (OMSA), which has established grants specifically for organizations responding to the COVID-19 crisis,” Shi added. 

For individuals interested in volunteering with SCSP, the organization is actively recruiting Queen’s students in the professional programs of the Faculty of Health Sciences because they have already completed the necessary background checks to work with vulnerable populations. 

Once the organization becomes more established, according to Shi, they plan to accept volunteers from other programs as well.

“We have recruited over 40 volunteers, so our capacity to support lots of people is high,” Shi wrote. 

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