When Peter Van Rienen, Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) Neurophysiology Technologist, isn't wearing scrubs, you'll often find him sporting his Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) combat uniform. He is one of many Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) employees who serves patients as well as his country.
Peter, who has worked for VCH for 32 years, is celebrating his 40th anniversary as a CAF reservist this year – including supporting Operation LASER, the CAF's pandemic response – and one deployment to Afghanistan. To show his gratitude for the support VCH has given him and other reservists over the years, he nominated Vivian Eliopoulos, VCH's interim President and CEO, for a CAF Certificate of Appreciation.
“As a CAF reservist, I wish to extend my appreciation to VCH for supporting my deployment on Operation LASER and previous missions," says Peter. “As a senior officer of the Royal Canadian Medical Services, I wish to express our thanks for the ongoing relationship with VCH that provides our members, regular and reserve, with high-quality medical training and experiences. It enhances our ability to provide care to our members and allies at home and abroad."
During the early days of the pandemic, Peter was one of the reservists from across the nation asked to participate in Operation LASER. At the time, VCH's team resources permitted his redeployment. He was honoured to use his medical experience to serve his country during the largest public health emergency in the last hundred years – and he was grateful for VCH's support.
As Commanding Officer of the Royal Canadian Medical Services 11/12 (British Columbia) Field Ambulance, Peter was asked to lead COVID-19 safety planning for military training activities. He also provided personal protective equipment (PPE) training and education, and real-time medical support to troops – including eight members deployed to long-term care facilities in Ontario and Quebec to support vulnerable citizens in one of the areas hardest hit in the early days of the pandemic.
Knowing that he had VCH's support provided him great comfort. “Without VCH's support, I couldn't have completed these deployments knowing that I would be able to provide for myself and my family once I returned," he says.
Two representatives from the CAF met with Peter, Vivian and Dr. Ross Brown, VCH's Vice President for Pandemic Response, in a small, physically distanced, outdoor ceremony to present the award.
“On behalf of the Directorate of Employer Support and CAF, I would like to thank Vivian Eliopoulos and VCH for your outstanding support," said Lieutenant-Colonel Brent Purcell, Directorate of Employer Support Programmes, Canadian Armed Forces. “Appreciating that COVID-19 was a national emergency, you recognized that deploying Major Van Rienen (and other health-care workers who were also military reservists) would benefit Canadians and you granted them time off to deploy on Op LASER."
Humbled by the recognition, Vivian expressed her sincere gratitude. “I am so incredibly honoured that you nominated VCH and recognized my leadership," she said. “VCH has a longstanding partnership with the CAF. From establishing the Canadian Forces Trauma Training Centre (West) at VGH to setting up the field hospital at the Vancouver Convention Centre – there are many examples of where we have partnered with the CAF and benefitted from the skillsets and leadership our military-trained staff and medical staff bring."
“The strength of this partnership is evident in the success of our pandemic response as well," she continued. “Dr. Brown established our Regional Emergency Operations Centre at the beginning of the pandemic and it has been integral to our success over the past 14 months. We've all learned from his leadership and the skillset he developed through his military experience. Thank you to Dr. Ross Brown, Major Peter Van Rienen and all of our staff who are members of the Canadian Armed Forces. On behalf of VCH, I am immensely grateful for your service to our patients and I look forward to seeing the results this continued partnership will bring."