Reinventing Island Health Services

Island Health Services Director Sharon Daley, RN and Island Outreach Director & Chaplain Douglas Cornman enroute to an island from the Sunbeam.

NORTHEAST HARBOR, ME — With the Sunbeam reactivated, Director of Island Health Services Sharon Daley, RN is figuring out how best to do her work, providing medical services among island communities. Working under Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Covid-19 restrictions and guidelines means reinventing how Sharon performs her Sunbeam work.

“It feels great being back on the water,” Sharon says, “But it’s hard. We can’t let anybody on the boat and everybody wants to come see. People tell us it’s hopeful just seeing the boat there. And that feels good. Everybody wants it to be normal.” For now, normal includes a self-isolating Sunbeam crew always wearing masks, eating their meals at separate tables.

“If there is a medical problem and I need to use the Sunbeam‘s telemedicine equipment, then the person does come on the boat. There’s a whole protocol everybody has to follow. Everybody has to have masks. They walk onto the boat directly back to my telemedicine room. That’s where I see them. When they’re done they leave directly out the door,” Sharon explains.

Most of Sharon’s work is off the Sunbeam. Either home visits or by phone and videoconferencing. As much as possible, home visits happen outdoors. Indoor visits require masks, well-ventilated areas, and brevity.

“I do a lot by phone — checking in with people — and Zoom,” Sharon said. She initiates calls to people, or “people contact me if they have a problem.” One silver lining to Covid-19? Amended government regulations make it easier for more medical professionals to use telemedicine. “Pretty much everybody’s doing telemedicine now,” said Sharon. “If someone calls and needs help setting up a telemedicine visit, somebody who doesn’t really have a doctor — I try to find somebody who can see them.”

Since the early months of Covid-19, March and April, the existing weekly Zoom conference among island eldercare administrators took on new importance. The Zoom calls “are helpful for the administrators in figuring things out. They share ideas,” said Sharon. “It has been really, really important because the administrators are under a lot of stress and have a lot to deal with. So they’re able to support each other. They need the support because it’s a really hard time for them financially, with staffing issues, and supplies and regulations changing frequently,” Sharon explains.

“It’s very hard for the morale of the [island eldercare home] residents,” she continues. “They’re not getting to see people. They’re not getting to go out. It’s a really lonely time for everybody. We have residents that like to do things. They like to go to the mainland and they like to do things like that. They can’t.” An activity director took part in a recent island eldercare Zoom conference, offering activities the homes could use to engage and entertain residents,” she said.

News of the creation of new Covid vaccines brings hope. As of this writing Sharon doesn’t know when the vaccine(s) will be available to her. But, she said, if she can get it and transport it, she will administer the vaccine on the islands.

Learn more about Sharon Daley’s work.

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