He was an Avon Ambassador. A Quebecker who ran the French subsidiary of the cosmetics company, well known for its network of home representatives. At 67 years old, Sylvain Larose is now a proud volunteer at the Center hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM). “I wanted to ‘give back’,” he says. Even in times of pandemic.
The diagnosis was made five years ago: cancer of the gum, jaw and sinuses, stage 4. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy… Sylvain Larose underwent a series of treatments at the CHUM to fight the disease. “My life was saved,” he says.
For two and a half years, Sylvain Larose has been volunteering four days a week at the CHUM. In this second wave of COVID-19, he welcomes patients at the entrance, directs them to clinics and accompanies them to the check-in kiosks. “I help them calm down too,” said the masked volunteer, laughing eyes. People are anxious about the situation. “
Volunteers like him, the CHUM needs about sixty. During the spring confinement, volunteers had to give up their activities at the hospital due to their age (70 years and over) or their state of health. “We are currently at 50% of our volunteers,” says Lise Pettigrew, head of the volunteer, entertainment and recreation department at the CHUM.
The situation is worse at the CHU de Québec – Université Laval. “We are deprived of more than 90% of our volunteers,” says communications consultant Lindsay Jacques-Dubé.
The CHU recently launched a recruitment campaign to find 200 volunteers and thus allow “as many employees as possible to be assigned to the care units,” wrote in a statement, the establishment which oversees the five hospitals. The lack of personnel is glaring in the health network.
“We need people to cover all the entrances to all the shifts,” specifies Lindsay Jacques-Dubé. The volunteers will be responsible for ensuring that patients comply with sanitary measures, such as wearing a mask and disinfecting their hands. A task currently incumbent on security guards and technical assistants in health care, indicates the CHU de Québec – Université Laval.
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The CISSS de Laval also has an “urgent need for volunteers”. “During the pandemic, we were able to recruit some because of the confinement,” explains Sophie Bouchard, head of the coordination of volunteer resources and spiritual care. With deconfinement [cet été] and back to class, recruitment becomes more complex. “
Adults, without a criminal record, are welcome. Seniors too. “We re-authorized people aged 70 and over,” says Sophie Bouchard. Volunteers are given a choice, if their health allows it. They sign a consent form. She estimates that around 15 older volunteers will return to the ranks with this new measure. “Some volunteers tell me that they are not ready to go to the front, to the gate with the clients,” she explains.
The establishments ensure that they are well protected. And that their role is all the more important during the pandemic. At the CHUM, visits and accompaniments were suspended Thursday, as was the case in the spring. “When a loved one drops off a patient’s personal belongings at the entrance, the volunteers will take them to the room,” says Lise Pettigrew.
Volunteers also contact lonely patients to get their news. “We have made 11,000 calls since March,” says Lise Pettigrew. As travel to the cafeteria is limited, CHUM volunteers make rounds of drinks and snacks on the floors.
At the CIUSSS du Nord-de-Île-Montréal, their services will be needed during the flu vaccination campaign. “Our CIUSSS is currently looking for volunteers,” says its spokesperson Séléna Champagne. They will be responsible in particular for welcoming clients, submitting a form, ensuring circulation and collaborating in post-vaccination surveillance.
Sylvain Larose will give his time at the CHUM. No way to hang up his mask, despite a second wave that promises to be strong. “My motivation stays in place,” he says. And he doesn’t lack energy. “I walk 11 km a day, here [au CHUM] or outside! “