Volunteers support health department during coronavirus pandemic

Volunteers support health department during coronavirus pandemic

At the center of the COVID-19 pandemic response, many volunteers are making sure area health departments can meet the needs of our communities.

In Martin County, 18 volunteers between April and June have put in 1172 hours helping with anything from fit testing, trainings, call center, food drops, COVID messaging, COVID testing outreaches, logistical support, education, and mask distribution.

If they were to be paid, their contributions would be worth more than $136,000, according to the Martin County Health Department.

Some of those volunteers are doctors who spend hours answering the phones for the COVID-19 hotline.

If you call that hotline in Martin County, chances are you might hear Dr. Mary Starzinski, Dr. Kathy Petteruti, or Dr. Kathleen Fagan on the other line.

They are all retired doctors, coming out of that retirement to put their expertise to good use.

Dr. Petteruti has been volunteering for about 5 months, she said. “4,000 to 5,000 calls I would think,” Dr. Petteruti said.

They answer all kinds of questions from callers, ranging from wanting to know how to get their HOA to reopen their neighborhood pool, to seeing if they need to go to a doctor.

“Initially when we started, a lot of people were calling up saying I’m sick, what am I supposed to do?” Dr. Petteruti said.

Dr. Starzinski says they also spend a lot of time researching questions people have, calling them back when they can give them informed answers.

They are helping to dispel rumors or even field frustrations for the health department.

“One lady after the Martin county mask ordinance.. just called me and reamed me out,” Dr. Starzinski laughed.

The hot topic of the day or week also influences a lot of the calls they take.

“Even teachers last week who are crying,” Dr. Starzinski said.

“A lot of times we’re just giving them reassurance,” said Dr. Fagan.

While they are putting in long, sometimes tedious hours, these doctors would not rather be anywhere else.

“I just cannot standby and not help,” said Dr. Starzinski.

“Never in a million years did I ever think I would ever see this. And here we are in the middle of it,” Dr. Petteruti said.

Scripps Only Content 2020