Text that says Virtual Emergency Department Update on top of image of Michael Garron Hospital's Emergency Department sign.

MGH ramps down service in Virtual Emergency Department after two years of providing innovative care

After two years of providing innovative virtual care to our community, Michael Garron Hospital (MGH) is closing its Virtual Emergency Department (ED). The service’s last day of operation is March 31, 2023.

The Virtual ED launched in March 2021 to address the trend of patients avoiding in-person ED care as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was supported by temporary funding from the Government of Ontario, which ends after March.

MGH’s in-person Stavro Emergency Department remains open 24 hours a day, seven days a week for individuals experiencing severe, potentially life-threatening illness or injury and who need emergency medical assistance.

The Government of Ontario is promoting a shift in care delivery model and encouraging Ontarians to use Health811, previously known as Health Connect Ontario and Telehealth Ontario, to access virtual care where appropriate. This may include calling or chatting virtually with a registered nurse. This program is available seven days a week.

Health811 also offers other virtual health services, including symptom assessments and a province-wide service directory that allows patients to find and get health information.

Related urgent-care services, including Child and Youth Emergency Zone, will continue

Dr. Ruchi Mohindra, Emergency Physician at MGH, in the Child and Youth Emergency Zone.
Dr. Ruchi Mohindra, Emergency Physician at MGH, in the Child and Youth Emergency Zone.

MGH’s related urgent-care services, including the Child and Youth Emergency Zone and E-Booking Portal for Minor Injuries, will remain available.

“MGH remains dedicated to providing the East Toronto community with the urgent care they need when they need it,” says Dr. Kyle Vojdani, Chief and Medical Director of MGH’s Emergency Department.

“If you’re experiencing an acute health issue and need emergency medical assistance, please come see us – our team is ready to support you.”

In addition, other urgent care options, including urgent care centres and walk-in clinics in East Toronto, remain available during times where a patient cannot reach their primary care provider.

MGH also continues to support community sites like Health Access Taylor-Massey and the Thorncliffe Park Youth Wellness Hub. These sites are operated in collaboration with the hospital’s Ontario Health Team, East Toronto Health Partners (ETHP).

Celebrating success of Virtual ED

Virtual ED Drs. Megan Reynolds and David Rosenstein
From left, Dr. David Rosenstein and Dr. Megan Reynolds, Emergency Physicians at MGH who helped develop the Virtual ED.

Since March 2021, MGH’s Virtual ED has seen more than 4,500 patients, almost 70% of whom live in East Toronto.

Almost 75% of all patients who used MGH’s Virtual ED ultimately did not require an in-person ED visit.

This means this group was diverted from hospital EDs and able to receive the urgent care they needed from the comfort and convenience of their homes.

“The goal of the Virtual ED was not to replace in-person care, but rather, to reduce barriers to accessing medical attention for health concerns that can be managed virtually during a time when many people were delaying care due to concerns related to COVID-19,” says Dr. Megan Reynolds, Emergency Physician at MGH who helped develop the Virtual ED.

“We’re pleased to see this service succeeded in that and thank our patients and community for their support of this initiative. We also express our deep gratitude to our MGH staff, physicians, learners and volunteers – particularly those in the ED – for their unwavering commitment to ensuring low-barrier access to urgent care in our community.”

Value of accessing urgent care close to home

In addition to addressing the trend of patients avoiding ED care as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, MGH’s Virtual ED service aimed to encourage individuals in East Toronto to seek urgent care close to home.

This helps improve patient experiences because when a patient seeks urgent care at their community hospital, providers are able to readily access their medical records, medication and history.

Providers are also able to coordinate follow-up care or connect patients to other health, social and community services in a more local and seamless way.

“This previous knowledge of a patient and their medical history is especially important during an emergency situation,” says Dr. David Rosenstein, Emergency Physician at MGH who, along with Dr. Reynolds, helped develop the Virtual ED.

“If a patient has a severe, potentially life-threatening illness or injury, we continue to encourage them to seek urgent care at the hospital emergency department that is closest to them.”

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