This is part of a series of stories profiling members of the Niagara Health team and the work they are doing as part of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Meet Dr. Jennifer Frendo, a member of our COVID-19 Assessment Centre team.
Dr. Jennifer Frendo is filled with immense pride when she’s asked to reflect on the work of the team at Niagara Health’s COVID-19 Assessment Centres over the last three months.
Pride for how the Assessment Centres were organized and set up in a short time by the Niagara Health team.
Pride for the way Niagara Health staff and physicians and community doctors have come together to provide an essential service in our response to COVID-19.
And pride for how the team continues to deliver as it experiences a large increase in the number of tests performed since the centres began accepting self-referrals in late May.
“It has been incredible the way everyone has pulled together,” says Dr. Frendo, a family physician in Niagara-on-the-Lake and a Surgical Assistant at Niagara Health. “It’s a type of co-operation I’ve never seen before.”
When Dr. Frendo received the call back in March that community physicians were needed to work at the Assessment Centres, she was quick to respond.
She was also quick to help recruit other physicians in the community to join the Assessment Centre teams in St. Catharines and Niagara Falls.
More than 30 doctors in the community stepped up to help, which is another source of pride for Dr. Frendo.
“Being a doctor, this is our vocation. This is what we do,” she says. “In a situation like this, it has to be all hands on deck, everyone on the same team. And that is what we are doing. It was really heartwarming to see my colleagues step up to the plate and band together. Everybody recognize the need.”
The Assessment Centre team also includes Niagara Health physicians and staff from a wide range of disciplines, including Nurse Practitioners, Registered Nurses, Social Workers, Personal Support Workers, EVS, Registration Clerks and Security, some of whom took on responsibilities outside of their regular roles.
Since accepting self-referrals on May 25, we have seen a significant increase in people coming for testing at our Assessment Centres. That is part of the reason why today (June 22) we opened our third Assessment Centre, located at our Welland Site, which will increase access to testing and help us better meet the needs of our community.
Since May 25, more than 6,700 patients have self-referred or walked in for testing. In total, the Assessment Centres have conducted nearly 18,000 tests since opening in March, and more than 2,600 over the last week alone.
What has it been like at the Assessment Centres with the increased number of people coming through since May 25?
It has been a challenge for sure. We basically saw our demand double. The team pulled together and said: Challenge accepted, we got this. The demand is there and we meet it every time. The response from the team has been incredible.
Describe working at the Assessment Centres?
It’s really about the team. We’re given the challenge and we do what we have to do to get the job done. And that means thinking outside of the box, thinking outside of our normal routines, while maintaining safety. People are fast on their feet to innovate and make sure we get the job done.
How important is it for Niagara residents to continue following public health advice to stop the spread of COVID-19?
We’ve made good progress in the Niagara region. It’s a testament to the healthcare workers in the region and the community for following the advice of health experts to do what they have to do to beat this virus, including physical distancing, cleaning your hands often and wearing a mask. Now that we are entering Phase 2, we have to stay with the program. We’ve taken that next step, but we have to keep doing it (taking precautions) and doing it right, like we’ve been doing all along. Now is not the time to let our guard down. We have to keep fighting this and keep working hard.
What has been the most challenging part personally for you working during the pandemic?
My parents live one kilometre from me, and it has been hard not being able to hug them and go into their home. I’m used to seeing them at least two days of the week. I still seem them six feet apart outside and we talk on the phone at least twice a day, but it’s not the same as going in the house and having our lunch on the weekend like we normally do or stopping in for a cup tea. I am still physical distancing with the people closest to me because I want to ensure their safety.
Learn more about the COVID-19 Assessment Centres here.