As COVID-19 continues to place strain on healthcare workers, McMaster University provides isolated and affordable accommodations

For many healthcare workers, the struggle to keep society safe has come at a personal cost. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare workers have faced an increased risk of infection, as well as the emotional impacts of dealing with this public health crisis.

Offering residence rooms to healthcare workers was a way for McMaster University to provide support to those on the frontlines. The aim of this program is to provide frontline healthcare workers with a safe and affordable place to self-isolate.

As these workers are at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19, living away from home for a period of time helps them to protect their families.

According to Laurie Ham, manager of conference and event services at McMaster, an organization heavily involved with this program is the Thrive Group. As Ham explained, the Thrive Group is a non-profit organization that has been helping to connect McMaster with healthcare workers who are interested in accessing this program.

“They receive the initial inquiry and they work with people interested,” said Ham.

The Thrive Group’s Vice-President of Business Strategy, Vickie Baird, reflected on the importance of having this program in place.

“We knew that there was some anxiety that these healthcare workers would bring the virus home to [their] families, so we wanted to be able to give them an affordable option that would allow them to stay somewhere safe during their work term,” said Baird.

The program, which launched on Jan. 20, allows healthcare workers to book a stay in McKay Hall at an affordable rate, with the option to order meals to their rooms as well.

“We had heard that [healthcare workers] really did want some options, other than calling a local hotel and paying a hundred plus dollars per night,” Baird explained.

“We had heard that [healthcare workers] really did want some options, other than calling a local hotel and paying a hundred plus dollars per night,” Baird explained.

Ham explained that McKay Hall was well-suited for this program.

“The building has just completed a major modernization of all of the washrooms throughout, so it makes it a perfect opportunity to have [healthcare workers stay in] a safe, comfortable setting,” said Ham.

Healthcare workers can stay at McKay Hall from three to 14 days, a policy which was created to accommodate as many workers as possible. Baird added that McMaster would be willing to consider extension requests.

As of Feb. 4, the program has received nine inquiries from healthcare workers, although none have registered yet. According to Baird, healthcare workers may be waiting to see if their employers would cover the cost, or they may be unsure about the meal plan, as it isn’t designed with long shift schedules in mind.

“I think it’s still early. Even though we launched the program two weeks ago, it takes a while for the information to filter through,” Baird said.

Along with space reserved for healthcare workers, McMaster’s campus is still inhabited by a small number of students currently living in residence. To ensure effective social distancing and other safety protocols, Ham highlighted that healthcare workers and students are isolated from one another.

“It’s entirely separate. It’s a separate building; it’s a separate series of standard operating procedures and protocols,” said Ham.

A number of McMaster departments have been involved to create this initiative. From parking to hospitality services, it takes a village to bring the community together.

“To be able to come up with a comprehensive [program] requires participation from [many] people,” said Ham.

Overall, Ham described this program as an opportunity for McMaster to give back to Hamilton’s healthcare workers.

“We were able to work through a plan to demonstrate the university’s commitment to supporting these dedicated, passionate, relentless professionals who are caring for everyone else to make sure people stay well,” said Ham.


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