Emergency department staff Cowichan District hospital
Photo by Janayh Wright
Cowichan Valley

‘We are very appreciative’: Cowichan E.R. doctor

A Vancouver Island photographer is documenting hospital staff during the coronavirus pandemic.

This week, Vancouver Island photographer Janayh Wright visited the Cowichan District Hospital to photograph the staff who are working to keep our community healthy through the coronavirus pandemic.

“During COVID-19 I wanted to honour the health-care-professional heroes who are risking their lives to take care of ours,” Wright tells me, in a text message. “It’s been an absolute privilege to document them during this time, I am forever grateful to them, we are all in this together.

I asked Dr. Isabel Rimmer, head of the emergency room department, what it means for community members to show their appreciation for hospital staff, including by bringing food and other gifts, offering services like photo sessions and joining the weekly noisemaking and drive-by that occurs on Sundays at 7 p.m.

What do these displays of appreciation mean to your team? 

“We are very appreciative of the support we get from the community,” Rimmer says. 

“When people started driving by and honking, I stayed later than I needed to one day just so that I could be there for seven o’clock. And, man oh man, it choked me right up,” she says. “It literally gives me goosebumps. And I’m not the only one. It makes those of us who get to stand there and listen and watch — we have to pull out our hankies. I didn’t actually think I would feel that way about it until I was there. It really is very inspiring. It’s a lovely thing to participate in and to witness.”

She says that the gifts of food have brought different departments closer together. A lot of the donations come through the emergency department, which gives staff there an opportunity to seek out others in the hospital, to spread the love and share the bounty.

For more information about how things are going at the hospital, read The Discourse Cowichan’s recent interview with head family doctor, Graham Blackburn.

Dr. Isabel Rimmer, pictured bottom right, says this photo includes staff across many Cowichan District Hospital departments. Janayh Wright Photography

What do you want people in the community to know right now?

“I really want people to know that, although there is a lifting of restrictions and a formal attempt to get ourselves a little bit back to normal, these are not normal times, and they are not going to be normal for a long time,” Rimmer says.

“We’re in this for long run. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. And we mustn’t get complacent about the fact that we have such a low prevalence in our community. That’s a combination of luck and good management,” she says. 

But there is still no herd immunity nor vaccine. We are still vulnerable, and must continue to be careful, Rimmer says. “What happened in Alert Bay could happen in Cowichan, and we have to continue to be vigilant. We have to continue to put the needs of our community ahead of the needs of ourselves as individuals, to the degree that we can manage.”

How can people help?

“Everybody feels the need to do something, and it’s important to realize that sometimes doing something means actually doing almost nothing,” Rimmer says. “For those people who are just staying home, who are choosing not to take a bunch of trips to different towns for reasons that could be put off, who are heeding the advice of [provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie] Henry and others — that is a very remarkable contribution.”