When COVID-19 first struck Nova Scotia in March, the QEII Foundation quickly mobilized to establish the QEII COVID-19 Response Fund.


As of Oct. 2, the QEII COVID-19 Response Fund has raised more than $566,000 to ensure the QEII Health Sciences Centre and its healthcare teams are equipped and ready, no matter what this pandemic brings their way.


“Even before COVID-19 was here, we knew it was coming and there was massive, massive preparation,” says Chris Fraser, health services manager of the QEII’s COVID-19 Intermediate Care Unit. “We had to restructure units to house potential patients and we started very intense training to ensure we were well prepared.”


During the peak of the pandemic, the QEII COVID-19 Response Fund has been instrumental in funding items that are crucial to help teams navigate the daily challenges of patient care during a pandemic. QEII Foundation donors have not only funded items that are pivotal in ensuring in-hospital safety and timely COVID-19 testing, but also items that allow patients affected by this novel virus to recover safely at home.


One of the first purchases made was 1,000 pulse oximeters for COVID-19 patients. A pulse oximeter clips on a patient’s finger and monitors the percentage of oxygen in the blood, along with heart rate. These pieces of technology are vital in order for patients to be safely monitored at home, as respiratory failure can be one of the more severe symptoms of COVID-19.


Clinical nurse educators Breagh Weatherbee and Maria Collier say this equipment was a crucial part of the team’s response to COVID-19, as it allowed them to send patients from their unit home early and safely.


Not only did this free space and resources within the hospital, but it also helped reduce the risk of infection for both staff and non-COVID-19 patients and allowed the patient to recover comfortably in their own home.


“Staff taught them how to use the pulse oximeters and instructed them to come back if levels dropped to a certain point. Then they were able to manage fine at home,” says Breagh.


As the QEII continued to navigate visitor restrictions, donor funds were able to purchase 62 iPads to support families who have been impacted by COVID-19 protocols. These iPads allow patients and their families to connect virtually and enjoy the comfort of being able to see each other, despite having to spend some time physically apart.


In certain cases, these iPads also provided a more human connection between in-hospital patients and their healthcare teams.


“When we’re in full PPE, it’s hard for patients to get a sense of who’s treating them. It’s like, ‘You can’t see it, but I’m smiling under my mask!’” says Maria. “Video calls helped a lot in making these conversations feel more personal.”


Donors also played an important role in ensuring the QEII’s microbiology lab was able to provide accurate and timely testing results. Donor generosity allowed the QEII to purchase equipment that is crucial for identifying COVID-19 in lab samples.


When samples are submitted to the lab for COVID-19 testing, the genetic material from the virus must be amplified in sufficient quantities in order to be detectable. The donor-supported ABI 7500 Fast Instrument allows the province’s only COVID-19 test lab to do this with incredible speed.


These donors were also able to ensure that QEII teams could care for patients safely with advanced and strategic sterilization procedures. With thanks to donors, the QEII was able to purchase equipment, like a CleanFlow Health Care Unit, which ensures the proper sterilization of N95 masks.


Additionally, the QEII was able to purchase high-speed sterilization technology, such as Moonbeam units, for incredibly fast and effective sterilization of large, high-touch surface areas like patient rooms, operating rooms, bathrooms, equipment and more.


Another key area of impact was the purchase of handheld, portable ultrasounds. This technology provides accurate clinical assessment and diagnostics without the patient being required to leave their bed. It allows healthcare teams to meet patients at the point of care, make a faster diagnosis and deliver exceptional care wherever it’s needed.


QEII Foundation donors were also able to help fund several crucial and world-leading research studies that will take place at the QEII, providing long-term solutions to pandemic response today and in the future. The QEII Foundation joined forces with the Nova Scotia COVID-19 Health Research Coalition, which was established to rapidly respond to urgent COVID-19 focused research right here in Nova Scotia.


Chris and his team say the community has shown “amazing, overwhelming support” and the impact of those donations continues to be felt in all corners of the QEII every day.


To learn more about the QEII COVID-19 Response Fund and how donors are making a difference, visit QE2COVID19Response.ca.