University of Manitoba students volunteer on the front lines of pandemic

WINNIPEG — The province said it has completed 4,800 tests for COVID-19 so far.

Health Links is receiving thousands of calls every day.

There’s a growing need for people on the front lines to help with the pandemic, and some University of Manitoba students are lending a hand.

“I’ve done volunteer shifts at both Access Fort Garry, which is a screening site and Health Science Centre,” said Chris Moskal, a second-year student at the University of Manitoba’s Max Rady College of Medicine.

Moskal is studying to be a doctor. He said he’s been performing screening tests at access sites and he has also volunteered at HSC, screening visitors for risk factors as they enter.

“Our instructors are all working and our friends three years above us are all working,” said Moskal. “We want to do whatever we can…and help out on the front lines.”

Dean of the Rady Faculty of Health Science – Dr. Brian Postl said when the need for help increased, the faculty was contacted to get involved.

“We got a request from Shared Heath, from the Chief Nursing Officer Lanette Siragusa,” said Postl. “(Asking would) students be available to help in certain areas?”

He said students from the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing, and Dentistry have been volunteering. 

He said students have been helping in other ways too, by babysitting and grocery shopping for health workers unable to do so.

Paul Turenne, a spokesperson for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said access centre’s in Winnipeg didn’t use to act as testing centre’s, so suddenly there was a need for more people.

“Those are the types of roles that some of these volunteers are filling, roles that didn’t exist a couple weeks ago,” said Turenne.

The WRHA said in addition to volunteers, some 4th-year University of Manitoba students are taking their practicum by working the phones at Health Links.

“Any helping hand is a welcome helping hand at this point, and we’re happy to have them,” said Turenne.

Moskal said the reason many students get into this profession is that they want to help people.

“Getting called up to help out in the pandemic in any way possible, that’s kind of our duty to help, that’s why we’re here,” said Moskal.