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Dear Colleagues: Some of you have mentioned a column in today's Toronto Star by Joe Fiorito that criticizes our decision to no longer have nurses on site at the Princess Margaret Lodge on Jarvis Street. As a columnist, Mr. Fiorito is entitled to write his opinion, but I would like to clarify the facts as you may be asked questions by other patients and families.
Please keep in mind that the mandate of the Lodge is to provide temporary accommodations to out-of-town adult cancer patients who do not require clinical or significant personal support. This means that guests at the Lodge are outpatients – just like the Toronto-area residents who return home after completing a day's treatment at the hospital.
For anyone who needs medical assistance – whether they are at home, in a hotel or staying at our Lodge – the immediate response should be to call 911. As you know, we tell all of our outpatients when they should visit an Emergency Room and when they should call 911, and this applies to the outpatients staying at our Lodge and to residents of the City of Toronto.
Earlier this year, we reviewed the mandate for the Lodge, and clinical and support services provided there. This review included a number of site visits to other lodges, as well as interviews and focus groups with stakeholders including lodge guests and families, clinical and non-clinical staff, the PMH executive team, Sunnybrook, Cancer Care Ontario and the Canadian Cancer Society.
The review validated that the mandate remains sound, and that the Lodge provides an important and valued service for out-of-town cancer patients when they are receiving active treatment at either Princess Margaret of Sunnybrook – just as it has done since 1958. The review also indicated that no other lodge in Ontario has nurses on site as hospitals have increased services over the years. At Princess Margaret, for example, patients can access expanded nursing care at the Radiation Nursing Clinic and REACH Clinic.
In June, Princess Margaret leadership met with Lodge staff to explain the decision to alter the model of care, and over the next few months, changes were implemented. Of 11 nurses affected, three retired, four returned to work at the hospital, one casual nurse obtained another UHN position, and three casual nurses decided to leave the organization.
While it is clear that some people are unhappy with the changes at the Lodge, I want to assure you that we are not changing our primary focus to provide a "home away from home" for out-of-town cancer patients who must travel to Toronto for active treatment. This is indeed a part of the proud legacy of Princess Margaret and it will continue. Thank you for your support.