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So, what exactly is the Health Care Heroes Fund?

Staff Writer | December 5, 2020 1:00 AM

A successful night of generosity translates to successful work in the COVID-19 unit at Kootenai Health.

The more than $918,000 that gracious hearts across North Idaho and beyond donated during the Kootenai Health Foundation's 32nd annual — and first virtual — Festival of Trees Gala on Saturday night, and money that comes in through the end of the month to support the Health Care Heroes Fund, will make a world of difference for front line workers and isolated patients.

These donations cover items and services to support the physical, mental and emotional health of those working around and being treated for COVID-19.

Personal protective equipment, including masks, gowns and goggles, help keep staff safe as they interact with patients. Ventilators, critical care monitors, COVID testing analyzers and telehealth equipment aide in the speed and efficiency of care. For comfort and emotional support, iPads in the COVID unit give patients opportunities to "see" their families when they're apart.

"Families are usually our partners in care; not being able to have them here while their loved one is severely ill is heartbreaking," Kim Inman, director of clinical services at Kootenai Health, said Tuesday. "We’re grateful we can at least provide a way for patients to see their family virtually through the addition of iPads in the COVID-19 patient rooms.”

More than 30 new beds have been bought for the COVID wing.

"We have also supported a special fund for employees to get extra help for financial hardships caused somehow by COVID," Kootenai Health Foundation President Julie Holt said.

In November, every employee, except directors and above and physicians, received a special gift check as a way of thanking them for all they have done, Holt said.

Health Care Heroes Fund dollars have also paid for additional training for nurses on how to use critical care equipment to expand the critical care unit.

The hospital has millions of dollars in unexpected costs from COVID, and this fund supports the non-budgeted costs.

"We have used the donations to help dozens of Kootenai Health employees from across the organization who have struggled with child care issues and other significant financial impacts related to COVID-19," Family Fund Committee Chair Elizabeth Brewer said.

The response from employees, Brewer said, has been "a big sigh of relief and gratitude."

"Sometimes this helping hand is just what is needed to keep these heroes going in this really difficult time," she said.