Since North York General Hospital (NYGH) opened its doors more than half a century ago, it has grown from a 50-bed single hospital in 1968 to a multi-site organization made up of many acute care and outpatient services. From child and adolescent mental health to geriatric services, to its high-volume birthing centre, North York General serves one of Toronto’s fastest growing communities where nearly half the population are newcomers to Canada.
NYGH’s bold new five-year Strategic Plan, Thinking Beyond, is guiding how NYGH will modernize our services and meet the needs of our diverse and growing communities. Informed by the input of patients, residents, caregivers and families, staff, physicians, and partners, NYGH identified Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) as one of its priorities in support of our Strategic Direction, People Come First in Everything We Do.
“We are committed to create an environment that fosters EDI and anti-racism within our workplace,” says Janelle Benjamin, Manager of EDI at North York General. “When we go to work or people come through our doors for care, we don’t leave our identities outside the building. We have to consider policies and practices that support people from different including those who are marginalized and historically disenfranchised in society.”
Since joining NYGH in 2021, Benjamin is responsible for advising the leadership team on how to implement changes across the organization to build a more diverse, inclusive and collaborative environment. This includes focusing on education and training, engagement and belonging, health equity for patients and residents, workforce policies and programs, and data analytics and reporting. In her role as manager of EDI, she is responsible for connecting and with staff, physicians, learners, and volunteers across NYGH’s seven sites to provide education and assistance and receive their feedback about how the organization can break down barriers for people.
“My door is always open for team members who might have questions and would otherwise feel uncomfortable coming forward or raising concerns,” adds Janelle. “Part of my role is to offer support and guidance to my colleagues.”
“It’s important to recognize that our team members are just as diverse as the population we serve. That’s why we are focused on fostering a culture of belonging and on how we can make sure we are addressing the needs of patients and our people,” says Michelle Weldon, Co-Chair of NYGH’s 2SLGBTQIA+ Committee.
North York General’s 2SLGBTQIA+ Committee’s mandate is to create a more inclusive environment for everyone while addressing homophobia and transphobia and is one of two groups established in the last few years to help support those working, learning, and volunteering at NYGH. Since forming in 2020, the Anti-Black Racism (ABR) Committee has grown to 20 members from across NYGH including staff, physicians, and Patient and Family Advisors.
“We’re working to identify barriers and make recommendations that lead to meaningful processes including championing anti-racist education to promote a safe, fair, equitable and supportive place for patients and our people,” says Norma McCormack, Co-Chair of the ABR Committee.
The Committee has introduced new ABR education boards at the hospital for staff, patients and visitors, which display quotes, visuals and facts about Anti-Black Racism. It also recently launched NYGH’s first ABR Data Collection Survey to gather confidential information from staff, physicians, learners, and volunteers about their experiences related to Anti-Black Racism. Some 1000 NYGH staff and physicians had their voices heard through the survey.
“Our ABR Data Collection Survey is one way we are taking an important first step in understanding current barriers and exploring experiences from within our hospital and across our sites,” says Benjamin. “It’s important that we take stock of workplace demographics and personal experiences and interactions to help inform the work we need to move forward. Every person’s voice matters.”
A new EDI Framework will also soon be released to help guide the organization to ensure equitable access to quality care, advance a culture of people-centred care, and improve the overall experience for patients, residents, families, caregivers, staff, physicians, students, and volunteers. North York General is also working with its Ontario Health Team, North York Toronto Health Partners (NYTHP) to improve health equity within North York. Made up of NYGH and 20 other core health care organizations, patient and caregiver advisors, a Primary Care Advisory Council and many other health and social care groups serving North York, the NYTHP is focused on how to reduce disparities in people’s access to health care and create healthier communities.
“We’re learning as we go and it’s been incredibly refreshing to collaborate, share experiences, and work towards advancing our agenda to create safer spaces for every member of the team and every person who trusts us with their care,” says Weldon.
This article first appeared in the May 2022 issue of The Pulse.
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