Australia

How you can support Australia's frontline workers during the COVID-19 crisis

One Australian campaign is encouraging people to buy healthcare workers a coffee. Source: Instagram/BuyThemACoffee

With challenging months ahead, a number of campaigns are asking the public to show their support for those working hard to contain the spread of the virus - from buying a healthcare worker a coffee to offering up your babysitting services.

For 24 days in a row, Dr Kamran Ali has gone to work as a general practitioner, trying to keep up with the surge of patients at two Brisbane practices.

Last Monday he saw 50 patients in one day.

Yesterday, he held patient consultations in the car park so others in the waiting room weren’t put at risk. 

At one practice, he is the only doctor working, so a day off would mean it would have to close. He’s conscious that without him, hundreds of patients who need even non-COVID-19 related care would be without a GP. 

“If I become ill, not even from the virus, my patients would suffer,” he told SBS News.

“Where would they go? All the other doctors are busy too.”

Dr Kamran Ali
Brisbane GP Kamran Ali.
Facebook/The Kindness Pandemic

On Sunday, Dr Ali's wife shared her husband’s experience on The Kindness Pandemic Facebook page - a group created this month to share stories of kindness through the outbreak, which has already attracted more than 285,000 members. 

The couple was overwhelmed by the support, with more than 5,000 people commenting on the post in 24 hours.  

“We did not expect the number of people writing comments and liking the post,” Dr Ali said.

“It’s going to get busier over the next few months - any sign of support is worth it.”

#BuyThemACoffee 

As Australia's healthcare systems are tested by an increased volume of patients, the general public have rallied behind frontline workers, launching campaigns to ease the pressure and boost morale.

To say a simple thank you, one woman has coordinated a fundraiser to supply hospital staff with free coffee, tea and snacks from local businesses.

“I was sitting at home, anxious, and felt compelled to try and do something,” said Kaylie Smith, a marketing manager from Sydney. 

After consulting healthcare professionals online, the most common request for support was for a cup of coffee, Ms Smith said. 

In a week, the Buy Them A Coffee GoFundMe page has raised more than $15,000 and has expanded from New South Wales into Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania. 

Cleaners, support staff, doctors and nurses can drop into participating cafes or visit coffee vans which visit during night shifts. 

Micaela Hayes, a nurse working on the frontline in a Sydney emergency department, said she was taken aback by the campaign.

“What I’m feeling at the moment is slight fear as we in the hospital don’t have our hands on the most essential items to keep ourselves safe,” the 25-year-old said. 

“This makes me realise how much people appreciate what we do… it helped me get through some crappy night shifts.”

An extension of the project is now expected to roll out in London.

Doctors Without Babysitters

As schools close in Victoria and the ACT, and parents in NSW are encouraged to keep children at home unless there is no other option, healthcare workers have utilised community initiatives offering childcare.  

Though state schools remain open in Queensland, one medical student, Brianna Russell, launched a Facebook group to help health workers in Brisbane find a babysitter. Those offering their support are mostly medical students, said Ms Russell, but some are also teacher trainees and other healthcare workers on their days off.  

Babysitting for Healthcare Workers Brisbane
Facebook/Babysitting for Healthcare Workers Brisbane

In a similar fashion, actor and business strategist Eliza Charley launched the Facebook group Doctors Without Babysitters (Meet Arts Workers Without Work). As announcements of school closures were made, Ms Charley said the number of healthcare workers requesting to join soared.

Letters for the Front

In the same week, Australian psychiatry registrar Dr Lisa Pryor started Letters for the Front, asking Australians to send uplifting emails and cards to provide moral support to hospital staff.

“When there is a lot of adversity and uncertainty for the long-term impact, people want to provide that urgency and direct help on the ground,” said Nicola Britton, Regional Manager of GoFundMe.

“When traditional charity and government relief packages fall short, these campaigns step in.”

Among the campaigns, all creators echoed the same sentiment; the need for help and the desire to help has exceeded their expectations.

Adopt a Health Care Worker

Another group, Adopt a Health Care Worker, launched initially as a Perth-based project but grew to include all states when healthcare workers called for an expansion.

The platform allows Australians to “adopt” healthcare workers in neighbouring suburbs who are in need of extra support during the pandemic.

Picking up shopping, walking dogs and household chores are among the tasks suggested.

“People have even given their AirBnB for two weeks so healthcare workers can self-isolate,” said the project’s founder Chris Nicholas, 34.  

Adopt a Healthcare Worker
A post from the Adopt a Healthcare Worker page.
Facebook

Although many posts show strangers responding to a callout, family and friends are also privately reaching out to hospital staff who have asked for help, he said.  

“It provides practical support and it improves morale within the healthcare industry at a time where it will be low,” said Mr Nicholas, who now manages 50 moderators.

Feeding the frontline

In Victoria, volunteers from the Sikh community have been offering free meals to those who are vulnerable during the outbreak, just as they did during the bushfire crisis.

As well as feeding those on the frontline, their efforts extend to the elderly, homeless, those self-isolating and those out of work due to business closures. Since the announcement of their campaign last Tuesday, the group has delivered almost 2,500 meals.

“Within one day we received 200 calls,” said Manpreet Singh, vice president of Sikh Volunteers Australia. “Today we are delivering 460 meals.”

A Perth catering company has also asked Australians to buy frontline workers a warm meal.

“I get really emotional because my wife is currently working a double-shift at a co-vid clinic,” said Zac Wilkinson, co-owner of A Moveable Feast.

“This small thing can give them a lifeline when things are tough and supermarkets are stripped bare.”

Michelle Elias is a freelance journalist based in Sydney.  

If you would like to share your story with SBS News emails yourstory@sbs.com.au 

If you believe you may have contracted the coronavirus, call your doctor (don't visit), or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

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