PRINCE ALBERT -- The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) requires people to take a new online course in infection prevention and control before they can volunteer in SHA facilities and programs.

“We’d like to bring them back because everybody is missing our volunteers. The staff, the clients and the residents,” said the SHA’s director of volunteer services, Bernie Doepker.

The course covers topics such as proper hand hygiene, how to wear a mask and how to put on and take off gloves safely.

At the start of the pandemic, the SHA dismissed all of its volunteers 65 and older as they were deemed a population more vulnerable to COVID-19.

Doepker says people volunteer at their own risk and the SHA assumes no responsibilities for mishaps and the new course is for their own safety.

Marjorie Bodnairchuk, a retired registered nurse and healthcare administrator who would often play the piano at the Herb Bassett Home in Prince Albert before the pandemic, said the course has good information, but may not be accessible for some volunteers.

The training requires logging into a website, reading, watching videos, using interactive tools and completing quizzes.

“People who aren’t comfortable with computers and websites and I think maybe they’ll just conclude their time with the Sask. Health Authority,” said Bodnairchuk.

Bodnairchuk says that would be disappointing as the residents of care homes and hospitals are going to be left with less visitor interaction and entertainment.

Doepker says the SHA is taking a cautious approach to resuming volunteer services and only allowing volunteers to deliver Meals on Wheels, virtual volunteers and outdoor entertainment.

“We are in desperate need of more volunteers,” said Doepker as many of the current volunteers who’ve been delivering Meals on Wheels need a break.