As the pandemic rapidly escalated, our teams quickly reimagined, retooled and responded. With unprecedented compressed timelines, we introduced innovative and lasting solutions.
We have always known how fantastic our people and community are, and its no surprise that during these difficult times our people and community's commitment is stronger than ever. Read more stories about our people and community below.
This Is The Front Line
Norma McCormak—Clinical Team Manager for Acute Care and Specialized Geriatric Services
Facing unique challenges caring for our most vulnerable
Assessing and treating elderly patients in the early days of the pandemic was met with a new set of challenges, especially since many patients who visit the hospital have underlying cognitive or physical impairments.
“Our elderly population has many comorbidities (or multiple medical conditions) so recovery becomes more complex when coupled with a pandemic,” says Norma. “We had to change our mindset and approach care in a different way. Many patients present with respiratory symptoms so we were really focused on assessing people carefully while focusing on positive patient care outcomes.”
Providing care stretched far beyond physical recovery. When visitor restrictions were implemented across North York General’s sites, teams rose to the challenge to offer emotional support to patients who were unable to see their loved ones.
“It’s incredibly important to understand a patient’s care needs, while offering empathy and support. Having everyone support and understand one another really helped us provide cohesive care across our programs,” says Norma. “Our environment has changed so rapidly and it’s incumbent on me to ensure my staff has the support and tools they need to contribute to positive patient outcomes. They’ve done a phenomenal job and I’m extremely proud of them.”
Connie Leroux — Critical Care Nurse
A shared journey
Changing and adapting was not something new to Connie or the Critical Care team — it was just magnified as COVID fears ravaged our community. Our Critical Care Unit cares for the sickest patients in the hospital during the most vulnerable phase of their illness, including COVID patients. The COVID journey was one taken together, intensified by new visitor restrictions. Beyond the incredible clinical care, it was nurses like Connie who held your loved one’s hands, arranged virtual visits, whispered words of hope and compassion and in end-of-life situations, arranged in-person visits.
Connie shared the following at the height of the COVID 19 crisis, “EVERY experience, good or bad…. we take home. When you are crying tears of joy or tears of sorrow…. we are, too. Your success is our success. Your loss is our loss. We too have fears and anxieties, but ICU nurses are strong, determined, knowledgeable, compassionate, emotional, caring and staunch patient advocates.”
Dr. Phil Shin — Chief of Medicine and Medical Director of Critical Care
Dr. Phil Shin played a critical role in planning ahead for an expected influx of COVID patients, while balancing his family life with his wife, family medicine specialist, Dr. Angie Hong. Two front line workers, in the same family, added extra pressure to the already long hours of pandemic response planning and caring for COVID and other critical patients. Dr. Shin thoughtfully responded with “We’ve been reserving meal times to talk about things besides the pandemic and forming routines for exercise and doing school work. We’ve been trying our best to cherish the extra time we have together.”
It is this same considered approach which reflects his leadership style and his response to planning for the unknown. “While there was a sense of anxiety, it was important to channel this feeling into constructive approaches to prepare for all different scenarios” reflects Dr. Shin. “Our task ahead really hit home after seeing how New York City and the rest of the U.S. had been struggling.”
He added, “To be ready, we created a second intensive care unit, one dedicated to caring for COVID patients and one for patients without COVID, but still requiring critical care.“
Arjay Ordona — Geriatric Emergency Department Nurse
Making a World of Difference with a simple call
Early on in the COVID crisis, when the Charlotte & Lewis Steinberg Emergency was seeing hundreds of patients a day for either COVID testing or treatment and other emergency situations, Arjay wondered what else he could to support our geriatric patients when they left our Emergency. He pondered if something as simple as a telephone call could make a difference and it sure did.
After discharge, Arjay initiated a phone check-in program to reach out to these elderly, vulnerable patients and offer comfort, education and medical advice and explain what resources were available during this public health crisis.
Arajay shared, “With social distancing and isolation, there had been less and less human interaction. We needed to think of ways to connect with our patients and their families and the humble phone was our answer.” He added, “Our patients said they felt supported and less anxious about the situation after speaking with me. For me, it was just an extension of a job that I love”.
Omellia Dennis — Facilities Services Expert
“I was just doing my job” said Omellia, when reflecting about the time he was asked to install additional hand sanitizers in our Emergency Department, as COVID -19 was ramping up. This time it was different. These were special negative pressure isolation rooms which were reserved for COVID suspected patients, and at least one of them had a confirmed COVID case.
Everyone has a different threshold for dealing with COVID and Omellia’s was a pragmatic one. He and countless others always go in, to this and many other situations which support patient care and keep our staff safe. It’s part of what they do; what they need to do.
“It’s my job as a facilities staff member,” said Omellia. “I understand what’s going on but I still have to do my job and just make sure to take the necessary precautions so I can get my work done.”
Darlene Baldaro — Professional Practice Leader for Respiratory Therapy and Clinical Respiratory Educator
The Breath of Life
Everyday, Respiratory Therapists (RTs), including Darlene, care for patients ranging from newborns to the elderly in all clinical environments and are an essential part of the Critical Care Response team at NYGH.
“We help patients with breathing difficulties who require oxygen therapy, intubation, and life support called ventilators,” says Darlene.
Because COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that affects the breathing system, Darlene and her colleagues have been invaluable in caring for patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. The procedures that RTs are involved in are classified as high-risk in terms of infection, prevention and control, meaning enhanced personal protective equipment (PPE) must be worn to ensure they don’t transmit or contract infections.
Darlene shared the following about what she is thankful for during the pandemic. “I’m grateful to work in a hospital that is well prepared to manage this crisis, has an incredibly supportive leadership team and has a knowledgeable team of experts who consistently provide timely and accurate information. I’m also thankful for my amazing team and for the outpouring of appreciation from the community. As well, I appreciate coming home everyday to such a supportive family.”
Christine Ramdeyol —Director of Care, Seniors’ Health Centre
Keeping Our Most Vulnerable Safe
When Christine and the North York General team assessed the COVID-19 situation and the risk to the residents of Seniors’ Health Centre (SHC), they made the collective decision to act above and beyond what was required of long-term care homes at the start of the pandemic. This involved implementing extraordinary measures including mandatory masking for everyone, creating contingency staffing, in-depth screening of staff and residents, and perhaps the most difficult measure of all, restricting visitors and care providers.
“In order to be prepared for the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak, I knew that any and all early interventions would benefit who it mattered to most: our residents.”
But doing the right thing, meant it would be tough on everyone involved. Christine and her team made sure the love between families and residents was still felt and understood while they were apart. “We’ve grieved with families loved ones over the loss of their physical presence, but have provided comfort when they cannot. We have laughed, cried and experienced every emotion with loved ones so they did not feel alone.”
SHC has been fortunate not to experience an outbreak. The work of Christine and the team underscore the importance of rallying your team and having a shared vision.
Research & Innovation
North York General's innovative approach to care
"Virtual visits help bring people closer together during this time of uncertainty. This is especially needed at a time when our hospital has instituted a limited family presence policy - a difficult but necessary step to decrease the potential spread of COVID-19," says Shana Haberman, Patient-and Family-Centred Care Consultant at North York General Hospital.
Read more about making connections.
The doctor will see you now, just turn on your computer
"When COVID hit, it became very clear that getting in your car, driving across the GTA and sitting in a waiting room in order to see a doctor was not the safest or easiest way to receive care," says Dr. David Eisen, Chief of Family and Community Medicine at North York General Hospital.
Safety strategies: Caring for those living with dementia during the pandemic
North York General Hospital's clinical teams at the Reactivation Care Centre (RCC) quickly realized they had to take proactive measures once COVID-19 began circulating in the community.
"Change can be difficult for anyone but we know this particular patient population may regress when something new or different is introduced," says Priya Mistry, Recreational Therapist at the RCC.
Thank you for your kindness
Over the past five months, our world has been turned upside down. But, this hasn't stopped our community from stepping up and showing their support. In fact, these difficult times have brought out the best in people.
NYGH has always known how fantastic its community is and has been shown time and time again over the last 50 plus years. Read more.
Fighting COVID with pride and purpose
Dr. Stephanie Klein, Family and Community Medicine Physician at North York General, has always had a passion for geriatric care, so stepping up to help older adults during the pandemic simply made sense. Dr. Klein also felt compelled to support her hardworking peers in long-term care. Read more.
Helping our most vulnerable at 3 a.m.
Dr. Nancy Down, a surgeon at North York General Hospital, and her husband Dr. Ian Soutter, a surgical assistant, were at home on a Sunday afternoon when they received an email about the need to cover shifts at a long-term care home for staff who had fallen ill. Although the home wasn’t in need of surgical expertise, Dr. Down was ready to lend her hands and heart. Read more.
COVID doesn’t rest, neither does the team
For the past two months, NYGH’s mobile testing team, led by Dr. Rebecca, Family Medicine Physician with the North York Family Health Team and Carla Moran-Venegas, Clinical Coordinator, Emergency Department, has been crisscrossing the community to support COVID-19 testing to large groups. More than 24 trips have been made to local refugee shelters, long-term care, and retirement homes, with about 3,500 individuals swabbed. Read more.
Experts leading the way
Yahoo News mentions Dr. David White, a physician at North York General Hospital, in an article highlighting safe transit methods and minimizing risk of COVID-19.
Toronto Star mentions North York General in an article on Toronto’s mobile COVID-19 testing centres.
CBC News mentions North York General in an article on hospitals’ readiness for dealing with COVID positive patients.
Globe and Mail reports Ontario hospitals plan off-site care for seniors in anticipation of COVID’s second wave, mentioning North York General and quoting President and CEO, Dr. Joshua Tepper.
Zoomer Week in Review radio show interviews President and CEO, Dr. Joshua Tepper to discuss the Ford government’s new pilot project with North York General Hospital.
CBC News reports on the safe of Ontario’s emergency rooms and North York General Hospital’s long-term care pilot project.
Toronto Star profiles three of North York General’s frontline staff who have been tackling COVID-19.
Toronto.com features an opinion piece by Zoe Bundas, a social worker at North York General Hospital in an article that discusses self-care.
Zoomer Radio interviews North York General’s President and CEO, Dr. Joshua Tepper, to discuss the hospital’s recent victory of reaching zero patients with COVID-19 in the ICU.
Toronto Star reports on the number of patients in the ICU at two Toronto Hospitals, including North York General Hospital.
CBC News profiles essential workers on the front lines of the pandemic, including an ER physician at North York General Hospital.
Globe and Mail connected with dozens of infectious-disease experts, health officials and politicians regarding Canada’s public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including Dr. Kevin Katz, Director of Infection Prevention and Control at North York General Hospital.
Toronto.com reports on Hawthorne Place Care Centre, a long-term care home, and mentions North York General Hospital noting that “Following several weeks of assistance providing hands-on care and support to residents and staff, as well as support from North York General Hospital’s Infection Prevention and Control team, the outbreak of COVID-19 at Hawthorne Place has ended.”
Global News reports on North York General Hospital’s Virtual Family Visit program and how technology has been able to connect family and loved ones with patients in hospital.
Huffington Post highlights 95-year-old Rosemary McCabe, a former patient at North York General Hospital, discharged after a tough battle with COVID-19.
CBC News took an in depth look at being on the front lines of care at North York General and the impact of staying safe during a pandemic on staff and patients.
Hospital News reports on physicians leading the response of hospitals to the COVID-19 pandemic and featured quotes from President and CEO of North York General, Dr. Joshua Tepper.
Toronto Star features an opinion piece co-authored by North York General’s President and CEO, Dr. Joshua Tepper. The article noted the importance of not ignoring the other curves that need to be flattened — unemployment, food insecurity, poor mental health, and housing instability.
Hospital News features an article authored by North York General’s President and CEO, Dr. Joshua Tepper about advancing patient and family centered care in the COVID-19 era.
CTV News discusses the crisis in long-term care homes and references North York General being appointed to manage Hawthorne Place.
Elle Canada Magazine describes a patient’s a positive childbirth experience at North York General Hospital, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Post City Magazine profiles of five of North York General Hospital’s physicians and staff members as health care heroes.
Toronto.com reports on how people should seek care during the pandemic and how ERs are safe. Dr. Joshua Tepper emphasis a very important message to the community: “If you are having health issues that concern you, we need to see you.”
CBC News reports that the city of Toronto is in the peak period and all its reported cases. The article mentions North York General Hospital’s efforts to facilitate testing.
Toronto Star reports on the impact of COVID-19 on Ontario nursing homes and mentions North York General Hospital as going into long-term care homes to determine what help they need with patient care, infection prevention and control, testing and personal protective equipment.
Zoomer Radio interviews Dr. Joshua Tepper to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on Canada’s hospital. Listen for Dr. Tepper’s complete interview with Libby Znaimer by clicking here.
CBC News reports on Canada’s testing capacity featuring Dr. Kevin Katz Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Control.
Post City Magazine features a Q&A with Dr. Joshua Tepper on how COVID-19 is changing and our reaction to it.
Toronto Star features an opinion piece co-authored by Dr. Joshua Tepper and Dr. David Kaplan. The piece discusses how this is a crucible moment for the Ontario Health Teams.
Toronto.com highlights North York General’s Dr. Sidney Chiu and his experience battling COVID-19 in the Emergency Department.
CBC News features an in-depth article on North York General highlights how “North York General Hospital, one of Toronto's busiest health-care facilities, is preparing for an influx of COVID-19 patients as the number of infections continues to climb day after day across the province.”
Toronto Star quotes Dr. David Kaplan on the importance of virtual-care noting that “We don’t want to bring healthy patients into an office where they could be potentially exposed to COVID-19 by mistake,” said Dr. David Kaplan, a family physician at North York General Hospital. “It’s part of social distancing. If you want to keep people out of communal spaces, it’s the same for keeping people out of waiting rooms. This is just another way that family doctors can help.”
Toronto Star highlights North York General’s new COVID-19 assessment centre and quoted President and CEO, Dr. Joshua Tepper, as well as Dr. David Kaplan, a family physician at the hospital. Dr. Kaplan discusses Ontario’s plan to rollout an online COVID-19 assessment tool for people and its impact on the volumes of people depending on the healthcare system.
CTV News reports on the hospital’s new dedicated COVID-19 assessment centre and quoted the Chief of Emergency Medicine, Dr. Paul Hannam.
CBC’s The Current, interviews Dr. Maral Nadjafi, an internist at North York General. Dr, Nadjafi discussed the healthcare system’s preparedness with respect to COVID-19, and the highly dynamic and rapidly evolving situation.
CBC Radio’s Metro Morning interviews Dr. Joshua Tepper, on enhanced COVID-19 screening and preparations underway at the hospital to build capacity
Globe and Mail features NYGH in an article about how a Toronto hospital is staying ahead of public health officials in the coronavirus fight. Kelly Grant, a health reporter for the Globe and Mail went behind the scenes at NYGH for closer look at how the hospital is preparing for the pandemic