In April 2020, when COVID-19 was a new threat to the world, sales rep Corwin Kwan of Sutton – Centre Realty in Vancouver stepped up. Doctors were just learning how the virus affected patients and vaccine development was in the first stages.
Kwan had volunteered with St. John Ambulance (SJA) for 27 years. He joined other volunteers from SJA and health authorities to develop and set up a field hospital at the Vancouver Convention Centre near the waterfront. It was intended to accept lower-acuity patients, which would free up Vancouver’s hospitals to deal with patients in critical care.
“We learned how to properly use personal protective equipment to protect ourselves and limit virus transmission. Thorough handwashing and safe methods of donning and doffing masks, gloves, face shields and hospital gowns were our main focus. We also learned how to use the on-site equipment to assist nurses,” says Kwan.
Recently he was awarded a Pandemic Service Medallion by SJA for his work to support those on the frontlines of the pandemic.
As emerging variants and other factors contribute to waves of infection, SJA volunteers, including Kwan, have had to remain vigilant; they could be called to serve at any time. Fortunately, this temporary hospital at the Vancouver Convention Centre has not yet been used. The Health Ministry and Vancouver Coastal Health agreed to close the facility in mid-July 2021, although it could be remobilized if needed.
Kwan began his work with SJA by earning his first-aid certification, then he volunteered to perform patient care, as needed, at events around the city. He became a leader for two divisions, joined the provincial team, and took on a leadership role as community services co-ordinator with his current division.
His 28th year of service is ending and he’s ready to jump into his 29th year, he says. Once in-class sessions begin for youth, hopefully this autumn, he says he looks forward to shaping the volunteers of tomorrow.
“I am very fortunate and can’t imagine a better way than to give back to my community. It feels good and it’s helping others. I was raised by great parents who taught me to be selfless and I know the future is bright,” he says.