For Canada Day, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge thank B.C. hospital staff for their dedication

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge hosted a Zoom call with health-care workers at a hospital in British Columbia as a way to mark Canada Day, thanking front-line staff for their efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

William and Kate were joined by six staff members at Surrey Memorial Hospital in Surrey, B.C. They spoke with the employees about their new work realities and how they’ve been keeping on top of their mental health in recent months.

Kensington Palace released a seven-minute video of the call Wednesday.

“We’ve been really, really fortunate. We’ve had tremendous leadership,” said Dr. Gregory Haljan, the head of critical care at the hospital. He noted the novel coronavirus arrived in B.C. in January, earlier than other Canadian provinces, and that the province has managed to flatten its infection curve for now.

“With a lot of great planning, a lot of great leadership and a little bit of luck, we’ve made it through the surge and now we’re into the recovery phase,” he said.

“We’re trying to take stock of all our stories and what we’ve been through and find the meaning in everything we’ve lost and everything we’ve gained, so we can build resilience for what comes next.”

Surrey Memorial Hospital is the second-largest hospital in B.C., according to Fraser Health, with the province’s busiest emergency department.

‘It’s a lot of distress’

Asked about their biggest challenges, staff told the Duchess they’ve struggled with not being able to meet with patients’ families, as they provide family-focused care as well as patient-focused care.

“It’s impacted patients’ mental health and their families’ mental health,” said health-care social worker Sunny Dulai.

“These families can’t come in to see patients. They can’t come in to see their loved ones. They can’t be a part of their care. And so it’s a lot of distress, I think, all the way around.”

Workers agreed they’ve relied on their colleagues and family members outside of work to get them through.

“I never once felt I had to stop working where I work because of the support I got from my team,” said Dulai, who is pregnant and due in September. “They’re watching out for me and we’re watching out for each other.”

The Duke and Duchess thanked the staff for their work, acknowledging the sacrifices they’ve made to support patients, families, each other and the community.

“It’s an amazing role that you’re playing and a hugely tough one as well, so we’re in huge admiration for everything you’re doing,” Kate said.

“Catherine and I just wanted to just touch base and say how proud we are of all of you and everyone on the front line who have led the way, very stoically, very bravely, and put patient care right at the top of the list, and done a fantastic job,” William said.

“So, well done — to all of you — and I hope Catherine and I can come and visit you guys one day and say that to you in person.”

Canada has had more than 104,000 cases of COVID-19. There have been 2,916 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in B.C., including 174 people who have died. As of Tuesday, there were 152 active cases of the disease in the province.

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