The latest COVID surge has placed a huge burden on hospital and healthcare systems nationwide.
Locally, the MICUs are at near capacity. And with nearly 30% of healthcare workers at Yale New Haven Hospital testing positive for COVID-19 this week, the workforce has been significantly impacted.
With these challenges, many are left wondering what they can do personally to lift the spirits of those who are on the frontlines. Meals4Healers has once again begun collecting donations and delivering meals to those in need.
Meals4Healers is an initiative that began during the height of COVID by Claudia-Santi F. Fernandes, EdD, LPC, assistant professor of medicine (general medicine). Fernandes sought a way to give back, and came up with the idea of bringing meals to physicians-in-training who were affected by the virus, while supporting local restaurants.
“What started as a group text message to my family, friends, and colleagues evolved into an empathy-focused, community-run initiative across the Yale network and operated by the GME office,” said Fernandes. “Given this support, we are now able to serve all physicians-in-training, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners across the Yale network.”
In March of 2020, Fernandes reached out to Lynn E. Fiellin, MD; Patrick O’Connor, MD; Tracy Rabin, MD; and Mark D. Siegel, MD, to strategize.
“We brainstormed and wondered how we could reach more healthcare workers given the need and how to ensure it is an empathy-focused, community-building approach. What can we do for our healthcare workers that feels like a hug when we can’t physically hug them?” said Fernandes. “We wanted those receiving meals to feel connected to our community, as well as feel our appreciation for their efforts. And, we wanted to provide a safe way for community members to show their gratitude and make an immediate impact.”
Soon the word spread about the initiative and donations quickly poured in. Fernandes reached out to local restaurants and organized meals to be delivered to those who were quarantining, isolated, or displaced.
The feedback from those who have fallen ill and received meals has been tremendous. One resident wrote to Fernandes, “Thank you to the Meals4Healers and the wonderful community members for providing me with love-filled meals as I was recovering. My heart is full from the kindness and the generosity you have shown. As I recover and prepare to go back to work, knowing that I am supported by the community, will keep me going.”
To date, Meals4Healers has raised nearly $40,000 and served approximately 1,500 meals. Although there have been brief hiatuses to the program when COVID cases dwindled, the need is once again apparent.
“The COVID surge in the spring of 2020 and those that followed have been overwhelming and Meals4Healers has played a critical role in supporting our housestaff who have had to isolate or care for family because of COVID,” said Fiellin. “I think we all felt this summer that maybe the pandemic was behind us and then came Omicron. We are now deep in the throes of this again, and Meals4Healers is there to support in the most fundamental way–by providing comfort in warm and home-delivered meals along with supportive and inspirational messages. This is at the core of what will get us through.”
“Each surge required some pivoting and listening to the needs of our frontline workers on how best to support them,” said Fernandes.
Since August 2021, Meals4Healers has served over 80 residents with breakthrough cases due to Delta and Omicron variants.
“Our healthcare workers are working on limited reserves and there is a dire need to care for those who are caring for our community. I am receiving messages from across Yale asking if we can expand more and serve everyone on the frontlines. We are working on it. If we can, we will. If anything, we will do our best,” said Fernandes.
To learn more and donate, please visit the Meals4Healers website here.