The Needlers set up a craft display in conjunction with the Nov. 8 downtown sidewalk sale as an alternate revenue generating option for the Auxiliary. (Submitted)

The Needlers set up a craft display in conjunction with the Nov. 8 downtown sidewalk sale as an alternate revenue generating option for the Auxiliary. (Submitted)

Hospital Auxiliary assessing how to help after lean COVID period

HATS was the first operation to return

By Bruce Wilkinson

As you might have guessed, the Hospital Auxiliary has definitely been affected by COVID-19 issues.

Our hospital Gift Shop and our downtown thrift store (HATS) were both closed for an extended period of time. Our volunteer services in the hospital were curtailed, and our support activities at Cairnsmore Place still haven’t resumed. However, a significant number of our members are back on the job doing what we do best: providing support to our local health care system.

HATS was the first operation to return with reduced hours and very strenuous adherence to hygiene practices, but we’ve recently relaxed some, although mask and hand sanitizing remain requirements before shopping. It’s been amazing that many faithful customers have been willing to wait patiently outside for their turn to enter while we monitor numbers in the store for safe distancing. The weather so far has been a glorious help in making this bearable, but winter is on the horizon. Seasonal items are on display now.

Visitor restrictions in the hospital were relaxed a bit in August and the Gift Shop reopened with limited hours (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.), adhering to safety protocols as set out by Island Health. However, hospital administration recently reinstituted visitor limitations, so customer traffic is again lessened. Hospital staff have been stalwart customers. We are anticipating more action as Christmas nears and our holiday stock attracts both faithful and new customers.

The Needlers have been taking advantage of the COVID quiet times by knitting up a storm, and have offered an array of crafted items for distribution at Cairnsmore Place even before they start setting aside the Christmas items that they are known for. Tuques for the Shaken Baby Syndrome project have also been supplied — something apparently not happening to the same extent elsewhere in the province. This project recognizes that baby crying is normal, and not a reason for aggressive parenting.

The Auxiliary is still packaging surgical sponges for pre-op patients, and has supplied toiletries for unplanned and unsupported patients. Magazine circulation service and tea and visiting operations await the time when things are “back to normal”, but we don’t expect that soon. The Auxiliary’s Facebook page (, where we post notifications of bulky items that HATS can’t display, and also promote some very special items, has provided an alternate avenue for revenue.

Naturally, much of this has affected our ability to raise funds, but after three or so months with no revenues but continuing expenditures, public support has been gratifying. The latest wish list arrived in the mail a few days ago, so we will once again assess how we can best help out.

Bruce Wilkinson is the acting publicity director for the Auxiliary to Cowichan District Hospital.