Over 750 calls made to council Covid helpline

Calls varied from help getting food to people calling from USA worried about parents

Mayo County Council has dealt with 757 calls from the public since the inception of their Covid-19 helpline, up to Tuesday of this week.

The helpline was initially in operation from 8am to 8pm seven days a week, but recently its operational hours have reduced to 9am to 5pm, still operating seven days a week.

The reasons for people calling the line varied with 179 calls in relation to collection and delivery of food, essential household items, fuel, and medication - in line with guidance; 37 in relation to social isolation, supports and engagement; 16 in relation to meals and their delivery; 15 were Garda related; 96 were health related and 414 dealt with other queries with 650 of the cases closed in relation to the calls.

Head of Communications for the council, Martina Hughes, told the Mayo Advertiser: "We have provided assistance predominately by signposting callers to community groups on the ground helping them get prescription and grocery delivery, linking them with Meals on wheels in their area, connecting them with one or more groups of community volunteers.

"We have also linked people with transport for hospital appointments etc. We followed up on all calls eg if we felt the caller needed extra assistance, we contacted the voluntary group on their behalf and linked them up.

"If we felt the community guard needed to help then we could pick up the phone and ring them to get extra support. We linked with community Gardai, Local Link, Family Resource Centres, Meals on Wheels, sports clubs and other voluntary groups to make sure that people who called weren't left isolated or vulnerable.

"The type of calls varied from people with health concerns, which we directed to the HSE, or perhaps concern for a neighbour who lived alone.

"People called us from the USA, UK and Dublin worrying about their parents who were cocooning and hadn’t access to groceries, prescriptions, food and we were able to either give them contacts or make contact with the relevant group to help them.

"We had volunteers on the ground working late into the night to make sure deliveries were being made, food parcels were being delivered or bottled water.

"We even had concerns where people had no communication, such as where their phone line was down, TVs were broken or mobile phones and we linked these people with volunteer groups, technicians and suppliers to make sure they got sorted out. Lawns were even cut and takeaways delivered to people who just needed that help."

The council deployed a pool of approximately 20 staff to man the lines, over four hour shifts each day - with a senior supervisor on duty to help with the more challenging case management as calls came in.

Hughes explained: "In the initial few weeks where people were first on lockdown we had many calls from those in our community feeling alone and vulnerable.

"At this stage in phase one many people just needed to know there was somebody out there to help. Many of the initial calls were people looking for help to get groceries or prescriptions and as time went on there were a lot of calls relating to health, which we redirected and latterly help to get transport to hospital appointments. The line is now much quieter than in the early stages as people are allowed out gradually."

One of the staff members who manned the line said they really enjoyed the work, telling the Mayo Advertiser: "I really enjoy engaging with the public; I love that I have been given an opportunity to assist people during this current situation.

"Sometimes people are looking for help and contact details, and it’s great to be able to assist and put them in direct contact with the service they require; we always follow up the calls to ensure that they have received the service they require, people are always very appreciative of this call.

"Also, sometimes they might just be looking for somebody to have a chat with, and we’re happy to do that too, it’s good to feel you’ve made a difference to somebody’s day.

"I found that simply listening to people and having a chat was so very important. People were isolated, lonely and also frightened of Covid-19 and a friendly voice for a chat, knowing there were groups in the community that were out there to help if they were needed, was key to helping people.

"We spent hours on the phone simply chatting to people. One man called about a practical problem but when we called back it was grief for his wife who passed fairly recently. He needed someone to connect with.

"This was every day for the first five to six weeks and then we moved slowly into the phase where the calls were more about covid 19 testing and transport to hospital for appointments."

In summary, Hughes stated: "The Covid Help Line was set up with extraordinary speed over a 48 hour period as an immediate response to the crisis by Mayo County Council led by John Magee and Liam Hanrahan with the full cooperation and support of the teams in Mayo House, staff from Castlebar Swimming Pool and Mayo County Council Executive. There has been a real ‘can-do’, positive, problem-solving approach by all involved."

 

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