Several local restaurants have been bringing by pizza and other treats for hospital staff. File photo

Comox Valley restaurants give hospital staff a boost

Businesses have been bringing by pizzas and other goodies

Some local restaurants gave health care staff on the front line a morale boost recently in the effort to combat COVID-19.

Janette Avcil, who works as a nurse in the emergency room at the Comox Valley campus of North Island Hospital, was on duty the evening of Friday, March 20 when a bunch of pizzas from Pizzeria Guerrilla arrived.

“Oh, everybody was thrilled,” she told The Record. “The community’s been great.”

She said people have also been cooperative by staying away for non-emergency situations, which helps health care staff preserve their resources and reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

As well, a lot of private citizens have dropped off treats for the staff, and Avcil had heard Midland Tools donated some protective equipment. The store confirmed a hospital representative had been checking for more equipment, so the store decided to donate safety glasses and suits, respirators, cartridges and other needed items, and it expects to be putting more aside in the days ahead.

Work at the hospital has been busy, with lots of extra shifts, Avcil said, while staff have had plenty on their minds.

“It’s nice to see that people appreciate us,” she said.

Pizzeria Guerrilla founder Jason Uglanica credits his friend Rupert Wong, a biologist with Current Environmental, for the idea, and said they made arrangements to deliver the dozen pizzas to the doctors and nurses on duty in emergency. Wong later contacted the newspaper to say Current Environmental first approached Uglanica to place dinner orders to cover two ER shifts. He loved the idea and did not hesitate to offer to split the bill.

“Current Environmental would like to encourage other Comox Valley businesses to consider supporting the community in some way like waiving rent for tenants, supporting front line workers and families isolating at home,” Wong added.

Uglanica told The Record via email they feel a little like the last place standing and also mentioned the need to remember how to feed “our homeless that have been completely forgotten about. More forgotten than ever.”

RELATED STORY: Comox Valley Food Bank closing doors due to COVID-19

“We also feel responsible to providing food to whomever needs it. If we were not here, the guys and myself would be at the hospital, volunteering our time in the hospital cafeteria that has had a hard time,” he said. “I’m pretty sure we’re not the only ones. I plan on sending more food surprises as the the weeks continue.”

Some restaurants are doing delivery and takeout but no sit-down service, and have decided to help out front-line staff. A housekeeping staff member at the hospital posted on social media that Panago in Comox had brought by pizzas with some inspirational messages written on the boxes to give staff a morale boost. Panago delivered a dozen or so pizzas on Friday and another 15 on Saturday around lunchtime. One of the Panago employees, Breanna Slater, whose boyfriend works at the hospital, came up with the idea, and the two handed out a bunch of pizzas to different departments.

“We were kind of able to surprise them,” said Panago manager Matthieu Rollin.

He said they have not been too busy of late and had some dough left, so they wanted to help the hospital staff.

“I just chose to donate the pizzas,” he said.

On Friday, March 20, Pita Pit in downtown Courtenay brought a platter to the staff at the nearby Shoppers Drug Mart. Corrie van Wieringen owns the restaurant with her husband, Fred Gordon, and they also delivered five platters for about 100 hospital staff members the following day after making arrangements with one of the head nurses. She is also hoping to help firefighters, the ambulance station and others like grocery store workers.

“We’re going to try to do at least a few a week,” she said. “We don’t want it to end after just this one week…. It’s the right thing to do.”

The Tim Hortons location close to the hospital also arranged to send food and drinks over for their neighbours, with some messages and happy faces included on the boxes.

“We’ve got some food and drinks going to them every day, Monday to Friday,” said co-owner Tracy Caissie. “I was able to set up a regular delivery schedule with them to get all the different departments.”

She said Tim Hortons is looking for other groups in the community to help out.

“We’re going to start there, and see what we can do because we’re limited staff too,” she added.

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