The nurses and staff at Jefferson County’s Public Health Department have recently been described by Commissioner Bob Mullen as being under siege.
Working days, nights and weekends, the Public Health Department staff has struggled to keep up with a rising number of COVID-19 cases and their close contacts as the pandemic continues to wear on into the holiday season with no end in sight.
The increased workload has not gone unnoticed.
Folks in the community have responded with an outpouring of assistance of all kinds, said Public Health Department Supervisor Pam Hanna.
“From the beginning of the pandemic we have had Jefferson County residents reach out to share their talents and provide support. We are grateful to all the mask makers, card writers and treat givers. Recently, there has been an outpouring of generosity. Meals have been provided and individuals have stepped forward to relieve our ever growing load. Volunteers have prepared lunch, provided office support, contact traced and given encouragement. These acts of kindness have nourished us physically and emotionally,” said Hanna in an email to the Monitor.
Many times, an update on cases will be sent out after 9 or 10 p.m., indicating that the work day hasn’t ended at 5 p.m.
“We became aware that the people working there were putting in long hours and we appreciated what they were doing and wanted to support them,” said Boulder resident Jan Ziettlow who, along with several others, have provided lunches.
Jefferson County Health Board Chairperson Christina Binkowski said L&P Grocery has provided food and had made deliveries, as has The River.
“L&P has done so much for the health department,” said Binkowski.
The River has altered its typical delivery schedule to accommodate the Health Department, as well as having donated some pizzas, while Boulder Hot Springs has also brought over meals.
“I know they’re working hard,” said River owner Greg Hughes.
Boulder Hot Springs General Manager Kerri Kumasaka said they have made a commitment to provide lunch at least once a month as they know the staff has been burdened by the pandemic.
“We’re really grateful of how the health department is working to keep everyone safe and we want to show our appreciation,” she said,
Binkowski, who also volunteers in the office, said Betty Charlton and The Gift Box in Boulder routinely ask what types of masks are needed and get busy sewing them up.
To keep up with the workload, the Jefferson County Health Department has also added five temporary nurses and has two school nurses helping as well, said Hanna.
There are also a few folks helping in the office, and while many have volunteered, the constraints imposed by HIPAA have limited that, said Binkowski, referring to the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act that protects privacy.
“These individuals have become our lifeline. Receiving additional assistance and comfort lifts our spirits and keeps us moving forward,” said Hanna.
And despite the workload brought on by COVID-19, the Public Health Department has also been able to give 543 flu shots as of Monday, said Clinic Coordinator Molly Carey.
At the same time, the staff has also had to field their share of angry responses and insults.
Binkowski said she felt like a member of the staff, having received a few herself while working the phones in the office.
“They take insults, they take yelling. They’re taking a lot of abuse as well. You have to have a real thick skin.” said Binkowski of some responses received on phone calls, as the department works the phones concerning ongoing cases.
“Boulder has really stepped up and taken care of the staff,” said Binkowski.