Rising to the challenge through innovation

Dr. Joshua Tepper

Last week marked two months since North York General Hospital (NYGH) became one of the first in the Province to open a COVID-19 Assessment Centre. A couple weeks later we opened a second location at our Branson site and following guidelines we have tested over 5,200 members of the community to help stop the spread of COVID-19. To make this happen required a lot of people coming together in a short time. We have worked closely in partnership with our primary care partners and our emergency department teams to get these sites up and running. It has also taken work by our IT/IS group, facilities team, strategy unit, Ontario Health Team partners and others.

One impressive accomplishment is how fast our team rose to the challenge. The sites were up and running very quickly. I have also been impressed by our innovation, for thinking beyond what was our normal, and pushing ourselves to creatively overcome obstacles. There are numerous examples of innovation in the organization to respond to COVID-19 and testing is a good example.

Testing for COVID-19 has been critical in identifying risks, reducing the spread of infection, and of course providing the best care. But not everyone needed to be tested according to the guidelines set out by Public Health. We did not want people coming to an assessment centre who would not meet the testing criteria. We needed an easy way to help people know if they should be tested. Working with our partners Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Humber River Hospital and Ontario Health, we developed an online assessment tool, covid19Toronto.ca. This tool helps Torontonians self-assess their risks and if needed also connects them directly to a Registered Nurse for a live virtual triage and direction on whether to proceed to a local assessment centre or emergency department. A simple process to ensure we are using valuable resources effectively and keeping people safe at home if testing isn’t actually required. It’s also a system that is easily updated as the guidelines evolve.

For those requiring testing, the wait for results can be hard. To reduce the waiting time we developed and launched a confidential COVID-19 results tool. Through an online portal, patients can quickly and securely access their results as soon as they are available, helping to reduce the anxiety for many people who test negative and accelerating care planning for those who test positive.

Recently, our focus has shifted to outbreaks of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities, retirement facilities and shelters. Home to some of the city’s most vulnerable residents, most of us have read about the terrible rates of illness and death in some of these settings. Our assessment centre team has developed a mobile unit who are going into these care facilities to do testing. This “SWAT Team” approach helps to quickly identify outbreaks amongst residents and staff alike so they initiate appropriate procedures and prevent further spread.

Testing for COVID-19 is just one example of where we have been both nimble and innovative. Our work will benefit NYGH and our community. My thanks to all the teams across NYGH.



Joshua Tepper
President and CEO

April 27, 2020