This is how Ashgate Hospicecare’s frontline workers are continuing to care through Covid-19 pandemic after a year of lockdown
Frontline staff from Ashgate Hospicecare have shared what it has been like caring for patients during the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, after a year of lockdown.
Employees at the Chesterfield healthcare facility have been working ‘tirelessly’ since the pandemic was first declared last March, to continue providing end-of-life care and supporting NHS colleagues in the Covid-19 response to ease pressure on the healthcare system.
A total of one in three beds were being used by patients at Ashgate who had tested positive with the virus during the second wave in November 2019.
The hospice documented an increase in demand for its care as infection rates rose and staff from across the charity were redeployed to their busy inpatient unit to care for those most in need.
Frontline workers from the end-of-life healthcare facility have shared the impact of working during the pandemic over the last 12 months – following the one-year anniversary since lockdown was first announced.
Healthcare assistant at Ashgate’s Inpatient Unit Hannah Botsford explained how her life has changed since the Covid-19 crisis unfolded.
“The impact that COVID-19 has on my day-to-day job has been huge”, she said.
"There’s been lots of new policies and procedures we’re having to follow to ensure everyone is safe, which can often change daily.
"It can feel daunting at times because I am constantly checking that I am following all procedures to ensure the risk is reduced, but ultimately, we’re still doing our best to make sure everyone gets the best care possible, regardless of COVID.”
The employee who works 12 and a half hour shifts admitted the hospice has a ‘special place’ in her heart as they cared for her granddad and thanked fellow staff at the healthcare facility for their support over the past year – particularly as she suffers with anxiety and depression.
Hannah added: "The biggest challenge for me since the coronavirus outbreak is not being able to hug!
"I love to give my patients a cuddle when they’re upset or scared.
"A cuddle between staff goes a long way too, sometimes we need that support and comfort throughout a tough shift.”
The ongoing Covid-19 crisis has caused a number of challenges for those caring for patients and their families in the community.
Palliative Care Specialist Nurse Amanda Hall explained how the demand for their community services rose by over 50% during the first lockdown – but due to staff sickness and resource pressures – their team was often scaled back.
“Caring for patients and families in the community has been a real challenge over the past year for myself and the community team”, she commented.
“We are tired; the hours are long; the work is relentless, but we’re part of an awesome team and the support everyone offers one another is absolutely world class.”
The Ashgate team has limited visits as much as possible while still aiming to provide care to people in their homes during the pandemic.
Amanda said: “Trying to do the job in full PPE is problematic for us, particularly when we’re trying to have those difficult conversations with patients and their family members.
"It is instinctive to offer grieving families a hug and that would be something we would have done before the pandemic but we just can’t now.
"It is incredibly difficult.”
Volunteer receptionist Debbie Hasland, from Dronfield, has given up her free time to help the charity while the coronavirus crisis continues and now checks people’s temperatures as they come through the door and makes sure everyone sanitises their hands to keep the facility safe.
She first started volunteering at the hospice three years ago, where her sister Amanda who had terminal cancer was cared for.
Debbie added: "I came to visit her every day because we were very close.
“That must be the hard part for families during the pandemic.
"To prevent the spread of the virus, patients are only allowed one designated visitor until they reach the very end of their life, which I imagine must be sad.
"It’s great that families at Ashgate do get to see relatives being cared for because that’s not the case in hospitals.”
Deputy store manager at Ashgate’s Hasland Furniture Store Andrea Farmery swapped retail for the hospice ward – when she was redeployed after being placed on furlough.
The manager is now working as a ward assistant and supporting doctors and nurses on the frontline by making sure Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is available to everyone and welcoming families to the hospice.
“I’d never worked in a healthcare environment before, the only experience I have of working in any type of care role was when I was looking after my dad in the last few months of his life”, Andrea shared.
“It’s all been completely new to me, but the support from the frontline staff on the ward has been fantastic and the training from them has really helped me to feel more confident in the tasks I’ve been given.”
Jane Woodhouse, who works as housekeeper supervisor, has been with the charity since 2006.
She commented: “With Covid-19 patients receiving care in our inpatient unit, it is our responsibility to stop the spread of the virus and prevent people from being infected.”
The housekeeping unit intensively cleans patient rooms, routinely changes curtains and wipes door handles and surfaces three times a day.
Jane added: “One of the most challenging parts of the job is not being able to make that human connection with a patient, as the PPE can act as a barrier.
"It makes having conversations difficult, particularly as we are trying to be in and out of a room as soon as possible.
"Every day is different throughout the pandemic; there can be days that seem particularly tough but everyone working on the ward is there for one another.”