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New respite space greatly appreciated by frontline COVID-19 hospital staff

Last Updated Oct 28, 2021 at 2:01 pm MDT

A new space for weary healthcare workers and hospital staff to safely unwind is a first of its kind addition to a Calgary hospital that could expand to others in the near future.

“This is tremendous. It’s so, so important, not just for the staff’s physical health, but their mental health particularly,” said Joanne Haslock, the patient care manager for the designated COVID-19 unit at the Foothills Medical Centre (FMC).

“It gives us an opportunity to take some time away from the unit, re-energize, refocus before we go back to work.”


Haslock has worked in healthcare for over 30 years and at the FMC for 13 of those years.

She explains there are a few small spaces dotted around the site that people can access, but the outdoor, dedicated respite space is the most communal area available to staff, who often feel very isolated.

“Even working, you know, side-by-side on the units, they’re still quite isolated. They have to break separately, there are limitations on how many people can be in a break space,” she said.

“This (respite space) allows people to safely get together, have a coffee, away from the unit and actually, you know, feel like they can take a breath.”

The area is approximately 11,000 sq. ft. and has different seating areas to accommodate both individuals and groups. About 50 people could utilize the space while adhering to current physical distancing policies in place.

“EllisDon and many of the sub-trades (began) providing out of their own pocket, the labour and gift-in-kind and expertise to make that space happen,” said Mike Meldrum, the President and CEO of Calgary Health Foundation.

The attitude of making a difference and supporting healthcare workers snowballed and now, EllisDon Construction, Oxford Properties, and the Calgary Health Foundation are hoping to raise $200,000.

Money collected in an online fundraiser will go towards the development of three more, similar spaces at other adult-acute care hospitals including Peter Lougheed Centre, South Health Campus and Rockyview General Hospital.

“All healthcare workers across Calgary, you know, deserve somewhere where they can go and take that time, either to be on their own and to reflect, or to actually spend some time with their co-workers,” said Haslock.