In this April 2, 2020 photo, a nurse at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle holds a medical face shield prior to the start of her shift in a triage tent outside the Harborview emergency department used to intake arriving patients who have respiratory symptoms. The face shield was 3-D printed and assembled by a member of a network of volunteers using a design approved and hosted by the U.S. Natio
In this April 2, 2020 photo, a nurse at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle holds a medical face shield prior to the start of her shift in a triage tent outside the Harborview emergency department used to intake arriving patients who have respiratory symptoms. The face shield was 3-D printed and assembled by a member of a network of volunteers using a design approved and hosted by the U.S. Natio

Clever idea stopping virus spread

After a long shift dealing with suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19, medical workers must then return home and risk infecting their loved ones with the potentially deadly virus.

News.com.au has uncovered cases of medical workers camping out in their front yard, or sleeping in their musty car garage, to protect those living with them.

But as of last week, not-for-profit organisation Find A Bed has a solution.

Erin Riley set up an organisation that pairs medical workers with empty homes, so they can safely isolate away from their housemates or family.

"We've had well over 100 health care professionals come to us in the past week," Ms Riley, based in Razorback, NSW, told news.com.au.

"At the moment Find A Bed is getting three (requests) every hour (from medical workers).

"Everyone from doctors through to food attendants at the hospital have come to us looking for another place to stay.

"These are all people who are at risk and exposing themselves everyday and they don't want that risk to extend to their families.

"Some people have small children, elderly parents, partners with cancer or auto-immune diseases etc."

Ms Riley founded Find A Bed back in January to help bushfire survivors whose homes had burned down. She created a website which matched survivors with "hosts" - people who offered spare rooms and sometimes even whole houses for them to stay.

Around 500 bushfire victims found a temporary home from the service, and thousands of other Australians put their hands up to help.

Here, Find A Bed is receiving generators to help Aussies without power during the bushfires.
Here, Find A Bed is receiving generators to help Aussies without power during the bushfires.

Now Ms Riley is trying to do the same for medical workers amid this new crisis.

"Last weekend, we got a few messages from healthcare professionals, saying: 'I need a place to stay, I can't afford a second set of rent/mortgage, but I can't stay at home."

So Find A Bed expanded its services to help medical workers. It now has 50 people volunteering to help match medical workers with a new home.

Ms Riley was "overwhelmed" by the "desperate need" from medical workers.

"We're not equipped for the scale of this, we need the government to help," she said.

She's come across some heartbreaking cases, which makes her realise this is a "major problem" in Australia.

"A young medical student is living in a caravan in her parent's yard, because she doesn't want to pass anything onto them," she said.

"Others are living in garages. (It's) really rough."

One med student is camping out in a caravan out the front of her parents’ house, to avoid passing along potential coronavirus germs
One med student is camping out in a caravan out the front of her parents’ house, to avoid passing along potential coronavirus germs

But helping these medical workers is proving difficult. A week into the bushfire crisis, 8,500 had signed up as hosts at Find A Bed, but the numbers aren't quite the same this time around.

Helping bushfire victims "was actually a lot easier than we're finding with the COVID response," Ms Riley said.

"What we need now are standalone properties. We can't just have a room."

Empty investment properties or self-contained units such as granny flats and studio apartments are the only housing Find A Bed can accept, as it keeps the medical worker safely separated from the host.

"But apartment hotels - that is probably our main one," she said. "We pay (for) them so that the medical workers don't have to."

For those who don't have spare property, she urged them to help by donating money to the company's GoFundMe, which would help pay for hotel rooms.

So far she has matched a dozen medical workers to alternative accommodation.

Ms Riley helped these people out during the bushfires earlier this year.
Ms Riley helped these people out during the bushfires earlier this year.

"We've had a bit of people going 'doctors can afford hotel rooms, what's the big deal?'. And maybe specialists can (afford it). But nurses, medical students, cleaners, food prep people, paramedics - they can't."

One young paramedic came to Find A Bed after he'd been spending money out of his own pocket on a hotel room.

"Within about 2 hours we had raised $2500. That kind of money is enough to put him up (in a hotel) for a month," she said.

"Think about it: If we got 500 people to put in $5, that would cover an ambo for four weeks."

For that very reason, Ms Riley believes "donation is a really good way to help" medical workers face this current crisis.

Airbnb has also launched a similar service, with the aim of providing 100,000 healthcare staff and first responders with free places to stay.

This will "allow them to be close to their patients - and safely distanced from their own families," Airbnb said in a statement.

Originally published as Clever idea stopping virus spread

Find A Bed received hundreds of donations through the post for bushfire victims.
Find A Bed received hundreds of donations through the post for bushfire victims.
A nurse puts on PPE gear before a gruelling shift in the hospital. Picture: Ted S. Warren/AP
A nurse puts on PPE gear before a gruelling shift in the hospital. Picture: Ted S. Warren/AP

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