We have all heard stories throughout the COVID-19 pandemic of visitors testing positive and being summoned to the country’s main isolation facility, at times against their will. Such persons have been publicly condemned for attempting to place their own self-interest above the greater good despite the public health emergency that is facing the globe.
Behind the scenes, however, Client Relations and Activities Coordinator at the Harrison Point Isolation Facility, Dr Rhea Corbin-Harte, has been working tirelessly to meet the physical, mental, and social needs of almost every patient admitted to the facility.
Dr Corbin-Harte’s journey started in April last year when she offered her expertise to the country and was assigned to work at the military base at Paragon, Christ Church.
“When I first started, I remember being extremely scared. Obviously, in the back of your mind you are worrying about your family. I had a young son at that time; he was just over a year old when the pandemic hit and I was indeed worried,” the general practitioner told Barbados TODAY.
“I look back at it now and laugh, but then I was scared. I would drop off my son by my mom, go to work. At work, I would shower when I am leaving, then I would go to my house away from my mom to shower again, then go pick up my son. That is what I was doing initially because nobody really knew how bad this was and we were learning on the job.
“But when I came for the training, I recognized that with the training and the supplies which the QEH [Queen Elizabeth Hospital] board would have given to the pandemic workers, I realized we were in pretty good stead with those supplies and it helped me to feel more comfortable,” Dr Corbin-Harte added.
As the country’s COVID-19 numbers gradually increased and the Harrison Point Facility was opened, her role shifted, as it became increasingly apparent that patients admitted would need more than mere clinical assessments and medical treatment.
After being appointed client relations and activities coordinator, Dr Corbin-Harte was tasked with looking after the social wellbeing of the patients as one of the only suitably qualified professionals in that field.
She explained: ”Very often, people have challenges just coping with the entire scenario of coming to Barbados with their family for their paradise holiday and then one person or some of them have COVID, others don’t or have not tested positive yet, and are split up. That is a lot to deal with, and cope with, and because they would have reached out to me as client relations, I would have found myself somewhat counselling them.
“Everything that could happen has happened and it would come to me and I would have to find a way to fix it. From persons needing things from at home while their entire family is in quarantine, to having lost their charger for their phone while under quarantine, to needing flights rebooked but having no local phone to make the call.”
Over the past 15 months, her priorities have started shifting and the doctor is much more interested in pursuing her newfound niche as a lifelong endeavour.
“I don’t know of it being a big thing on our landscape, but I would love to continue on that path and possibly be able to help QEH as well, because from my days at the hospital there are things that patients usually need addressed that the nurses and doctors would assist them with and I think if there is a department dedicated to it, this would improve their stay, their psyche and their overall ability to cope with being in a hospital,” Dr Corbin-Harte explained.
“I would definitely say that this experience, so far in my over 30 years of life, has more than likely had the biggest impact on me out of everything that I have done, both mentally and physically. But I am happy that I went through it because although there were challenges and fears, it helped me to grow as a person,” concluded the client relations coordinator.