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Offsite hospital wing increases lifesaving capacity in East Toronto during COVID-19
By: Isabel Terrell, Communications Specialist, VHA Home HealthCare
“My mom is receiving great care,” says Lorraine, whose mother Isobel is a patient at Michael Garron Hospital and is now housed at the Kew Beach Unit, a temporary hospital wing based at the Atrium at Kew Beach Retirement Home in East Toronto.
In the race to find new ways to protect and support more patients and families amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and increase hospital capacity, Michael Garron Hospital (MGH) and VHA Home HealthCare (VHA) have collaborated to create a new space for patients who were in MGH’s Alternate Level of Care (ALC) unit. These patients require 24/7 nursing and personal support care, but their needs are typically not as intense as other hospital patients.
Setting up the remote hospital wing involved meticulous planning and coordination across MGH and VHA teams. “We worked together to find a suitable location and our team led by Glendon Flint sourced all the equipment, from hospital beds and linens to medication carts and protective equipment, and we got it up and running in just two weeks,” says Courtney Bean, VHA’s Vice President, Integrated Care & Partnerships.
George Vandebeek, an owner of the Atrium at Kew Beach facility, was impressed by how smoothly and quickly everything came together. “The team was able to set up the unit with all of the necessary equipment so efficiently. They have been great to work with,” Vandebeek noted. “This has also been very positive for the other residents at this facility who now have better access to hospital resources including a doctor on site once a week.”
“This project shows the value of true authentic partnership,” added Bean. “Its success demonstrates what can happen when like-minded organizations come together and are both focused on what’s most important to our clients and patients.”
The move to Kew Beach creates more capacity for life-saving care at MGH and has eased anxiety for the patients and their families. The 23 patients housed at the unit are all COVID-19 negative and family members are comforted that their loved ones are being well cared for in this environment.
“When I talk to her… I can tell she’s happy,” says Lorraine. While she is not able to visit her mother as part of the efforts to keep everyone protected, the nurses at the Kew Beach unit have provided a lot of comfort to Lorraine throughout the transition. “They always take the time to provide detailed updates and even arrange phone check-ins so I can speak to my mom.”
This ability to stay in touch has been supported by a donation of smartphones to the unit through Telus’ Mobility for Good program. The initiative provides residents with free Canada-wide talk and text as well as 3GB of data every month to stay connected with family, friends and medical/home care staff during these challenging times.
Oliva Mabborang is a Nursing Supervisor at VHA and is the lead manager of the unit which is now staffed by nearly 50 VHA nurses, personal support workers, rehab service providers and cleaners. “The transition from visiting clients in their homes to providing care in a hospital-like setting took some adjustment,” she says, “But every worker was up for the challenge. I’m amazed at what we’ve been able to achieve in just a few weeks,” she added, “Every one of our new clients already feels like family.”
MGH and VHA are anchor partners in the East Toronto Health Partners Ontario Health Team which is focused on creating an integrated model of services for patients and families with health, community care and social service providers across East Toronto.
“The Kew Beach unit is a great example of our Ontario Health Team partnership work in action,” says Mark Fam, Vice President, Programs at Michael Garron Hospital. “This model could provide a blueprint for how we expand capacity in East Toronto on an ongoing basis, or during the annual flu season when we typically see an increased demand for all health and community care services.”