How North York General is helping to pave the way
The COVID-19 pandemic has gripped the globe, forcing many changes to the way care is delivered in long-term care settings. Much like the virus, the experience on the frontline is unprecedented. Once community spread of the virus was identified, North York General Hospital’s Seniors’ Health Centre (SHC) implemented visitor restrictions and strict safety protocols to protect its residents. These measures meant those staying at the 192-bed facility were unable to see their loved ones. It was a necessary action to help keep the deadly virus from crippling a demographic hit hardest by the pandemic.
“We implemented early measures to protect our residents, which included universal masking before it became a long-term care directive,” says Christine Ramdeyol, Director of Care at Seniors’ Health Centre. “The next logical step was restricting visitors and private duty nurses and only allowing our staff to have single-site employment. All of these measures helped limit exposure to residents and the community.”
Both residents and staff had to quickly adjust to their “new normal,” which included COVID-19 screening for staff who enter through a locked set of doors, fondly referred to by the team as the “Fort Knox” entrance. Christine says staff fully embraced the changes, taking safety precautions in the workplace and community, and ensuring they are feeling well and available for shifts. Together, this approach contributed to the lowest rate of absenteeism SHC has seen in years.
For residents, the changes were two-fold: Physical and emotional.
“Our residents receive temperature checks twice a day and are greeted by staff members wearing head-to-toe PPE where they are unable to see their lips when they speak or see them smile. They’ve also had to adapt to the abrupt end of visits with their loved ones, which was met with a new set of challenges,” says Christine.
Seniors’ Health Centre was the first North York General site to facilitate virtual visits between residents and loved ones to help combat social isolation. It also organized a spa day for residents, where staff stepped in to offer services like haircuts, hair styling and facials. Within six hours, the team performed 75 facials, 50 haircuts and styles, and 20 make up applications.
“We started with five staff members who voluntarily stepped in for the spa day and it quickly grew to 15, many of which stayed past their shift or gave up their breaks to help. The event has now become a monthly treat for residents and our team.”
While Christine and her team brainstormed to help enhance the mood and well-being of residents, they have also been tasked with quick decision-making to keep people safe as the pandemic evolves. To date, there have been no COVID-19 outbreaks or deaths at SHC.
“We have carefully planned for what care looks like now, with safety being top of mind. Once the Ontario government announced changes to our visitor access, we implemented guidelines to safety reintroduce outdoor and indoor visits with loved ones,” says Christine.
Proactive planning has helped influence decisions at other long-term care facilities, including those impacted most by the pandemic. When North York General was asked by the government to assume management of Hawthorne Place, Christine lent her expertise by providing guidance and resources for staff orientation, training and workflow - all of which help support recovery efforts.
“The pandemic has really highlighted the strength of our team, an appreciation for our shared vision of keeping people safe, and the importance of adapting to changing conditions. Through it all, our team has rallied support and put their best foot forward,” adds Christine. “I am truly honoured to be part of the team and the North York General family.”