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MGH community and partners help develop vision for future of health care in East Toronto

Support for priority neighbourhoods that face socio-economic challenges. Special devices that can be worn at home that alert MGH and community partners of changes in health, allowing for early identification and treatment. Timely care with easy flow between hospital, community, and home.  Patients are actively engaged as partners in their own care. These are just some of the ideas that the Michael Garron Hospital (MGH) community put forward to imagine the future of hospital and community care in East Toronto.

As part of Project Imagine, the hospital is working closely with staff, physicians, patients, families, caregivers, health care teams and community partners to create a shared vision for a leading and innovative community hospital that meets the needs of East Toronto’s diverse community today and in the future.

 “Meaningful engagement is important in every project in order to obtain different points of view.” says Yuri Ma, senior planning advisor, capital redevelopment for MGH. “Because we could not meet in person over the past year, we have had to be creative about how to reach and consult with people virtually.”

Through surveys, virtual engagement sessions and an online ideas white board on the Project Imagine website, internal and external communities took time to share their feedback and offer their thoughts on what they would like to see included in the hospital’s master planning vision within the context of working with our community partners. The vision development process was centred on three themes: the future of acute care, enhancing care through digital innovation, and community integration.

“We are incredibly grateful for the perspectives and insights our community and partners shared with us as part of Project Imagine,” says Mark Fam, vice president of programs at MGH. “Our extended community played a crucial role in creating a project vision to help us serve the needs of our diverse neighborhoods today and in the future.”

From these sessions, the community expressed that MGH is very much a trusted high quality care provider in the community and a valued partner beyond its walls.  While there is a need for on-site hospital care when complex infrastructure and specialized staff and equipment are required, more care outside of the hospital and closer to or within the home is desired and will be possible with future technology and innovations.

The consultations also showed a continuing need for community integration and social supports to address barriers to care for patients such as coordination, transportation, and communication.

Sarah Coppinger, manager of patient experience at MGH, says partnering with community members and patients is a crucial step in building a quality hospital experience.

“You must have the voice of the people who will be using hospital services at every step of the way” she says. “Patients and family members have a unique perspective that as hospital workers we may have overlooked.  When we listen, we learn so much.”

Sarah says patient partners “have varying reasons” on why they take part in these sessions, but there is eagerness on their end to make a difference and help influence care for everyone in East Toronto.

“I think the tie that binds them all is that this is their hospital, and they want to make it better,” adds Lisa Muc, a patient relations consultant at MGH. “They want to play a part in elevating their hospital in the eyes of the community.”

Kathy Jay is a senior client care manager at The Neighbourhood Group who took part in the consultations as a community partner. As a nurse, she says she wants to see a greater focus on “continuity of care” within the community to help patients receive the care they need.

She notes that many patients face different barriers that hinder their access to care, such as language barriers or knowledge of technology.  Populations such as the poorly housed or homeless or residents dealing with mental health and addictions issues require a health care system which prioritizes health equity and access.

These were some of the topics Kathy raised during the Project Imagine consultation period, and she says she was pleased with MGH’s response to her feedback.

“I felt like people were listening,” she says.

It is thanks to this feedback that MGH will have a better understanding of future health care delivery in the community, Yuri says.

“Diverse feedback from these consultations will play an important role in planning for health care delivery within a larger ecosystem of care and help us think differently about MGH’s role in this ecosystem,” Yuri says. “Understanding how care will be delivered in the future is critical before any design or building occurs.”

From here, the project vision guides MGH’s 10-30 year clinical services plan which then informs assumptions about future space needs in the hospital. For example, how many beds will be needed within the hospital walls in 10 years? How will we use emerging technology to make quality care delivery easier and more efficient?

In Ontario, it takes an average of 10 years from a capital project request to the construction of new buildings, including five stages of submissions and approvals with the Ministry of Health. MGH’s first stage master plan submission is targeted for the end of January 2022.

Upon approval from the provincial government, the hospital will progress to the second stage: the creation of a functional program. This will be an in-depth description of the services MGH plans to deliver along with what will be needed to provide these programs for the community.

“On top of opening the new Ken and Marilyn Thomson Patient Care Centre next year, Project Imagine will help us shape our longer term strategy and vision for delivering health care services to our community,” Mark says. “We are very excited to see where this project takes us in helping to develop the future of care in East Toronto.”

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