By Vanessa Orr, South Florida Hospital News, for ACHE of South Florida
ACHE of South Florida has always been focused on supporting its members, and that mission didn’t change during the pandemic. In fact, the organization offered eligible members two financial awards programs in 2020; one to recognize those going above and beyond, and the other to help those who might be struggling during these troubling times.
“While our chapter has historically given out scholarships for students twice a year, with everything going on right now, we thought it would be important to also do something broader for our membership base, “ explained ACHE of South Florida’s 2020 President Haroula Protopapadakis, FACHE. “It’s been a long, difficult year for our members, who are, by and large, healthcare workers. We wanted to support individuals in direct patient care by recognizing their efforts.”
To this end, ACHE of South Florida presented the Healthcare Heroes award in November, which provided $2,500 each to two deserving members.
The awardees include Yisell Fernandez, an ICU registered nurse at Mount Sinai Medical Center, and Timothy Curtin, a behavioral health administrator with Memorial Healthcare System’s Community Services Department.
Fernandez was recognized for her efforts in supporting patients and their families in the ICU, who have had to deal with the fact that they can’t be with their loved ones.
“It is so much harder for them because they have to remain separated,” said Fernandez. “So I have been there holding hands, laughing, giving them my shoulder to cry on, and believing in faith with my patients when there is no hope."
“There are no words to say how much I value my work, my patients and their families,” she added. “It is because of them and for them that I feel proud to be an ICU nurse today.”
Curtin demonstrated incredible dedication by making sure that Memorial’s patients were safe, cared for, and had access to services and supports throughout the pandemic. He leveraged the necessary telehealth equipment to seamlessly transition his entire 150-person department to a virtual telehealth format, and oversaw the creation of a YouTube Channel to provide community resources. He and his staff provided counseling sessions, case management services and support groups, and created a robust schedule of virtual events for Memorial’s 4,200 Senior Partners members.
Curtin and his staff also created a “Front Porch Support” delivery model, driving to patient’s homes to drop off face masks, gloves, cleaning supplies, adult formula and diapers. With 80 percent of older adults facing food insecurity, he also connected with a local food bank to leverage healthy food for seniors who needed to shelter in place due to age and/or chronic health conditions.
“Memorial has been doing everything possible to keep members of the community protected from the spread of COVID-19,” Curtin explained. “We have a responsibility during this time to increase support due to the additional challenges of virtual school, work disruptions, business closures and increasing mental health concerns.”
In addition to recognizing healthcare heroes, ACHE of South Florida also provided financial assistance to those in need earlier this year through a Stimulus Fund, which provided eligible members with $500 each.
“A lot of people have lost their jobs or had their hours reduced, or have been financially impacted by the COVID lockdown in some other way, such as not being able to pay student loans,” said Protopapadakis. “It was our way to give back to the healthcare community that has been adversely affected by the pandemic.”
The funding for these awards came from local donors and sponsors, who typically support ACHE’s educational and networking programs, as well as the student case competition and student scholarships.
“This year, we were not able to do any of those in-person events, so we used that money to support our members and the healthcare community in a different way,” said Protopapadakis, adding that the organization will continue to hold virtual events to enable members to get the certifications and continuing education credits they need.
“We are very grateful to have been able to financially assist members during the pandemic thanks to the generosity of our sponsors,” added 2021 ACHE of South Florida President Kenneth C. Wong, FACHE. “The level of assistance that we provided this year was unprecedented, and I hope that we can continue to support our members and the healthcare community in the year ahead.”