Island Health social workers and TELUS partner to give lifelines for those in need

Social Workers at NRGH and Nanaimo Community Health Services are extending a huge thank you to TELUS for their generous donation of 50 cellular phones for our patient populations.   

"We are so grateful for this donation," says Aimee Morry, Urgent Primary Care Clinic Social Worker. “The generosity of TELUS was absolutely incredible and brought me to tears, as this has helped so many people in great need." 

NRGH and Nanaimo area Community Health Social Workers support people and families on some of their most difficult days, whether through a hospital admission, end of life and/or challenges to access supports and resources to meet their basic needs.  The ability to meet basic needs such as food, shelter, support and services are common challenges for people for a variety of reasons that may include poverty, substance use, caregiving, disability and aging. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic created deep collective concern for the people we support and how we could help them meet their basic needs while restrictions were placed in public spaces and people were told to stay home to flatten the curve," Morry says “With this donation, clients now have the ability to be safe, whether it be fleeing from domestic violence or child abuse, as well access to 811 or 911 if necessary."

At the start of the pandemic, people could only apply for assistance programs – like CERB, rent supplements, mortgage deferrals, and hydro credits – by telephone or online. Many marginalized people do not have phones. If they do, these are often phones with phone cards and limited talk-time. This pandemic makes it more difficult for people to access the things they want and need to be healthy and safe. 

Social Worker Vanessa Portlock approached TELUS through their Mobility for Good program to see if her clients' needs would align with the program goals – helping vulnerable people with their communications needs.

“We quickly responded with 50 mobile phones with a no-cost prepaid plan (talk, text & 3GB of data/month) that will be supported for at least the duration of mandated isolation," said Jeff Churchill, TELUS Account Executive, Public Sector. “We appreciate the opportunity to support Vanessa and the great work she's doing. It's an honour to stand behind her and Island Health."

Portlock singled out Morry as the point person for collecting and distributing the phones. “Her willingness to support patients and other social workers is greatly valued," she said.

The donation has been an enormous support for people most vulnerable within this pandemic, Morry says.  

Social Workers in every area shared the phones with people needing them most. The Social Workers have since shared some patient stories to show how much this donation has helped the people they support.

“A young parent, unable to parent her children due to deteriorating mental health, that meant her children were in care. She did not have access to a phone to speak with her children and their social worker and to participate in sessions in a virtual fashion. This young parent was so grateful for this donation, and was moved to tears to feel that people cared about her."

“A phone was used to help an elderly man who lives alone with severe chronic health conditions. He is homebound and unable to see his family members who live on the mainland. His low-income did not afford him the ability to continue with telephone interactions. This phone donation has helped him to connect with his family and friends." 

“It was heart-warming to see my patient's face light up when she received a phone donated by TELUS. This parent is working hard on her sobriety and her baby was placed in foster care. As a result of social distancing, the ministry has placed restrictions on face-to-face visits with foster families. A phone from TELUS meant a way for her to see her four-week-old baby, who was in foster care, through FaceTime and photos sent by e-mail. (The phone is) a way for her to reach out to the ministry and a way for her to be contacted, a lifeline to access services and supports." 

“A phone was given to an isolated senior who has been in the hospital for over two months and has never been apart from her husband before. They are celebrating the 70th anniversary of their first date this week and she is delighted that staff can help her use the phone to arrange a video call to celebrate in some small way. It is especially important to help keep them connected right now as she is receiving comfort care and eventually will be moving into a long term care facility. This phone will help them keep in touch during the transition from hospital to long term care."

“Thank you TELUS for your generosity. Your donation of cell phones supported a senior citizen couple with community attachment, family connection and allowed them to receive medical care services. TELUS you played a significant role in upholding the human rights of this couple, thank you."

“A phone was given to a vulnerable adult to create to provide a life-line and ensure his safety. He has compromised immunity, and uses a wheelchair for mobility. Now he can call for help, or 911 if he is in danger. It also gave him the ability to communicate with his sister in Qualicum."


“Thanks so much for sharing this story of generosity and kindness," said Island Health President & CEO Kathy MacNeil. “And thank you for letting us know of Vanessa's 'going the extra' for her clients to ensure they are safe and cared for during this time of uncertainty. ​“We are so very grateful to TELUS for your generous support and very proud to call you partners and friends. Vanessa, we are very proud of the initiative you've shown and your example of our values in action."