Combating isolation and the potential for loneliness that could come with it is the notion behind a recent purchase by the Cape Breton Regional Hospital Foundation for the COVID-19 isolation unit now being set up at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital.
Six new iPads were purchased that will be put into use along with others already at the hospital to help patients connect with family and friends who most likely will not be able to visit them should they be hospitalized for reasons related to the virus.
"We are in a position where a lot of patients are not able to communicate with their families and, even if they are able to communicate with them via phone call, we are able to provide them with the option to speak with their family members face-to-face," said Rick McCarthy, acting CEO of the Cape Breton Regional Hospital Foundation.
"At a time when you are dealing with something like this and in hospital and in isolation, to be able to see your family members is a huge thing and can do a lot for your mental health and morale, for sure."
Medical staff preparing for potential cases of COVID-19 at the regional hospital, including Dr. Chris Lata, identified the iPads as important tools for patients dealing with a COVID-19 diagnosis.
"The hospital foundation has been graciously providing iPads to help patients under isolation communicate with their loved ones," Lata said in an emailed response to questions.
"New visitation restrictions during the outbreak prevent visiting as part of social distancing and to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission to our hospital floors. This allows patients and families to continue to visit virtually and take part in care decisions while continuing to protect our patients and health-care workers from possible exposure."
Funding came from the 2019 McHappy Day initiative that saw $87,000 raised at McDonald's restaurants around Cape Breton.
McCarthy said those funds primarily went toward the purchase of a portable ultrasound tool for the intensive care unit, adding comfortable seating to a waiting room area and other comfort items for patients.
The remaining $11,000, with blessings from Wayne and Gail Kennerkenecht, owners of five area McDonald's, were directed toward the iPad purchase and for monitoring equipment for an intubation unit.
McCarthy said there isn't necessarily dedicated funding for things like iPads so he was pleased that the Kennerkenecht family gave its support.
He called it another example of Cape Bretoners helping each other in this "unprecedented time of uncertainty."
"I can't tell you how inspired I am when I go online and see local musicians doing kitchen parties online to boost everyone's morale," he said.
"My message would be that we are all in this together and finding our way through this. I'm very proud to be in Cape Breton and seeing what we are all doing to be part of the solution to all of this. I look forward to getting back to normal someday."
When the iPads are no longer needed for the hospital's COVID-19 unit, they will be sent to its intensive-care unit.