Vaccine volunteers inject hope into trying times
It takes a whole county to run a COVID-19 vaccination clinic.
Health department director Diedre Serene said many of those working the clinics are volunteers.
“It depends on the pod how many volunteers we have,” Serene said. “It’s usually about 50. They come from all over the county, from both hospitals and people calling in to say they want to help.”
Commissioner Dave Crofoot, owner of Western Associates, estimated volunteers are providing $8,000 worth of labor to each clinic. That’s not to mention donated goods and supplies.
“We’re all in this together,” Crofoot said. “We’re all essential to each other.”
Bruce Skiles, retired nurse anesthetist and chiropractor, and his wife, Belinda Skiles, a registered nurse, both volunteer.
Both give vaccinations and Bruce also observes patients who have been given their shots.
“We keep an eye on them for about 15 minutes,” he said. “We’ve had virtually zero problems.”
The couple volunteer because they consider the clinics a good cause and they have time to help.
Seeing his old patients has been enjoyable as well.
“It’s been like old home week, seeing a lot of them and getting reacquainted,” Skiles said. “It’s been a lot of fun. I would say I know probably 60 or 70% of the people.”
Skiles said he’s been impressed with how the clinics are run and how well all the workers get along.
“It’s just really neat to be part of it and see it working the way it does,” Skiles said. “It’s a real bright spot to see it.”
Marcy Hostetler, county emergency preparedness coordinator, handles the logistics of making sure the clinics run smoothly.
She maintains lists of volunteers, schedules the clinics, reserves locations, and arranges the many details.
St. Luke Hospital and Hillsboro Community Hospital each send six employees.
County emergency medical service director Travis Parmley is the observation team leader.
“It’s my duty make sure there are no adverse reactions to the vaccines,” Parmley said.
Typically he has a staff member assisting him.
“The health department is required to be involved with the clinic, but the rest of the county offices have tried to volunteer their time in different ways,” Serene said.
Employees of the county clerk’s office make phone calls for appointments.
Gayla Ratzlaff, director of the Department on Aging, helps out most afternoons.
The district court usually sends a volunteer.
Park and lake supervisor Isaac Hett has been working at the clinics because the off season at the lake gives him the time.
The county commissioners help and also have recruited people to volunteer, Hostetler said.
“We have people who have come to the pod as a patient and they have called and said they would be willing to help,” she said. “We did have a fireman yesterday who had volunteered.”
Many businesses have helped however they can, Hostetler said. The American Legion and VFW provided wheelchairs. Carlsons’ grocery provided coffee. Casey’s donated cups.
Tabor College offered use of the Shari Fleming center for clinics when the weather was too cold to hold one at the fairgrounds. Tabor also fed the workers.
A Hillsboro optometrist donated lens cleaner and wipes for use by anyone who has trouble with their glasses fogging up when they wear masks.
Midway Motors staff showed up to help with traffic control.
“There are people trying to do whatever they can to help,” she said. “It they have anything we could use, they are giving it up for the pod.”
Although 50 people are scheduled to receive shots each hour, clinics also take time to set up. Volunteers clean up afterward.
“We work from 6:30 in the morning until 7 at night,” Hostetler said.
Hostetler tries to work around the volunteers’ schedules when booking them.
Besides nurses to administer vaccinations, the clinics require parking assistance, and help for patients filling out forms. Volunteers steer patients from the forms table to the registration area where their identification is checked and they are given information from the Centers for Disease Control. The final stop is a 15-minute observation period.
After the patient is done, information has to be submitted to CDC.
It’s a lot of steps, but observation takes up most of the patient’s time.
“The longest time was 22 minutes to get all the way through the pod,” Serene said.
“We also have Dr. Hudson there the entire time, walking around all over the pod,” Hostetler said.
Everything, from tables to doorknobs to chairs, has to be sanitized.
Everyone, patients and volunteers, are required to wear masks from the time they come in until the time they leave, Hostetler said. Nearly everyone comes with their own mask.
“We bought masks just in case, and I think we’ve handed out two masks the whole time.”
Hostetler said helping makes people feel happy and gives them a sense of having some control in what’s happening.
She’s thankful so many residents have gotten involved.
“We’re a small county and we don’t have enough staff to do it without help,” she said. “There’s no way possible. Thank you to all the volunteers, all the extra help, the extra hours, the extra time. The patients who come in, just the willingness to come in at any time even in the cold weather.”