Last week, 89 lives were lost in Ontario within 24 hours due to COVID-19.

The number is unprecedented and comes with countless family members and loved ones dramatically impacted by the loss. It also signals the countless number of healthcare and support workers who worked tirelessly in the attempt to save those lives. Over the course of the pandemic, we have lost 4,983 Ontarians and 16,950 Canadians. I know this reality drains us all.

Vaccines offer us light at the end of the tunnel, but we know there are challenges. In terms of supply, we have been experiencing delays in shipment and are working to borrow supply from other hospitals so that we might stay on cycle for people who need their second doses and continue first doses for patient-facing staff. There was some good news in that UHN staff were offered slots at Michael Garron Hospital and we later received an offer for slots at Southlake in Newmarket. Given the timing of the offer, we worked all weekend to book out the slots – about 1,000. We started with priority groups, then moved to anyone patient-facing and then, through leaders, sent a call to others at UHN. Based on direction from the Province and General Hillier of choosing speed over precision, our approach remains focused on getting vaccines into arms ASAP and to waste no doses. We know the delay in receiving vaccine and relatively small amount of supply available in Ontario is creating plenty of stress.

Now, we will get through these hard times – that is a fact – but we must work together as a united team. This includes myself and all leaders and staff. Thank you for doing all you can to prevent transmission. Thank you for recognizing that everyone is working hard and uplifting colleagues. Thank you for speaking up respectfully to ensure we are living our values. This is what it means to be part of TeamUHN.

Key reminders and updates

  • While the vaccine is an important tool in combatting this disease, our greatest tool at this time is physical distancing and rigorous infection control measures. Please follow the public health rules to the letter. Many lives will depend on this.
  • Reminder about mental health resources: Please consider supporting your well-being by accessing the UHN Cares program (Corporate Intranet > COVID-19 Preparedness > Mental Health Supports).
  • Tomorrow on Jan. 12 – Virtual Open Forum on COVID-19: Emily Musing (Vice President, Clinical; Chief Patient Safety Officer) and Shiran Isaacksz (Vice President, Business Development and Altum Health) will be presenting an update on UHN's vaccination strategies. Darlene Dasent (Chief Financial Officer) will be presenting a COVID-19 finance update. Submit questions here or enter #UHNCOVID-19x35 on Livestream here (Chrome/Firefox).

Overview of last week

1. COVID-19 Vaccines: Our goal is to finish vaccinating all patient-facing staff within four weeks (pending supply)

  • Background: UHN has opened two vaccination clinics – one at The Michener Institute of Education (active since Dec. 14, 2020) and one at MaRS auditorium (active since Jan. 5). We are also making arrangements to open a third clinic at the BMO Convention Centre at Toronto Western and will do so once we have enough supply to justify the expansion.
    The teams implementing UHN's vaccination rollout are led by Emily Musing (Vice President, Clinical; Chief Patient Safety Officer), Jin Huh (Senior Director, Pharmacy), Rebecca Repa (Executive Vice President, Clinical Support and Performance), Michael Caesar (Executive Director, Data & Implementation Science), Leanna Graham (Director, Professional Practice and Policy), Tamara Dus (Director, Health Services), Ian McDermott (Senior Director, Planning & Integration), John Granton (Interim Medical Director, Health Services), and Lori Seeton (Manager of Strategy, Clinical Programs and Optimization). Many thanks to everyone for their tireless work in service of Canadians and the health system.
  • What happened last week? As of Jan. 8, our vaccination clinics have vaccinated 9,146 healthcare workers using the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Unfortunately, the booking system has been crashing due to the overwhelming response and we know this is causing frustration. Thank you for your patience as our teams work around the clock to address these issues.
  • What do I need to know? If we receive adequate supplies, we expect to finish vaccinating all patient-facing staff at the hospitals we are responsible for within four weeks (i.e. UHN, Sinai Health System, SickKids, Women's College Hospital, Toronto Grace). Once we have finished vaccinating all patient-facing staff, our goal is to finish vaccinating all of TeamUHN by early February – pending supply. UHN is privileged to serve as Canada's top research hospital but this means we have many people to vaccinate.

2. COVID-19 Vaccines: Our mobile vaccination team – Mobile Team Vaccine – has finished vaccinating all the long-term care homes we are partnered with at UHN

  • Background: We received Moderna vaccines on Dec. 31 which do not require -80 degree storage like the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. This enabled us to launch the Mobile Team Vaccine to begin vaccinations directly in long-term care homes. In turn, we had the privilege of giving one of the first Moderna vaccines to a long-term resident in Canada. It happened at 11:07 a.m. at Castleview Wychwood Towers, a long-term care home we are partnered with at UHN.
    The teams organizing the mobile team vaccinations are led by Shiran Isaacksz (Vice President – Altum Health & Connected Care) and Camille Lemieux (Chief of Family Medicine). Thanks also to Joy Richards (Vice President, Patient Experience; Chief Health Professions), Susy Hota (Medical Director, Infection Prevention & Control) Joanne Bridle (Senior Director, Environmental Services and Nutrition) and their teams who have been supporting the long-term care homes on outbreak since Wave 1.
  • What happened last week? As of Jan. 10, our mobile teams have vaccinated all the long-term care homes we are partnered with at UHN! This includes 4,824 residents and essential caregivers and 860 long-term care staff. We are vaccinating approximately 750 to 1,000 people in long-term care per day. We have now visited 29 homes, including the Rekai Centres – the first long-term care home we partnered with and provided support to at UHN. UHN is leading the joint operations efforts with a coalition of partner hospitals including Women's College Hospital, Sinai Health System and North York General Hospital. To accelerate efforts, we are training multiple vaccination teams from these peer hospitals with many already up and running.
  • What do I need to know? We could all use some uplifting news – so I encourage you to see the photos and posts capturing this amazing work on Twitter via Brian Hodges (Executive Vice President, Education; Chief Medical Officer). Brian has been with the teams throughout and also acting as team photographer so follow #TeamVaccine and #DeliveringHope.

What happened at the Executive Leadership Forum meeting

UHN's Executive Leadership Forum (ELF) represents a broad range of voices and skill sets from across the organization and provides direction and oversight in service of patients, TeamUHN and our vision of A Healthier World. See the full membership on The last ELF meeting was held on Jan. 7, 2021.

COVID-19 Vaccines: Prioritization process for healthcare workers

  • Background and why this was brought to ELF: See the "Overview of last week" above. While we know people would like the security of knowing when they will receive the vaccine – even if the date is far away – it is very difficult to offer slots in advance when the supply levels are so variable and not guaranteed. We are also limited by the fact that we are only allowed to use the Moderna vaccine in long-term care homes and not permitted to use excess volumes outside this population. The situation changes minute by minute and we are working in partnership with Ontario's COVID-19 Task Force, our Federal partners and Toronto Public Health to communicate these challenges and adapt. Our shared goal across the health system is to get everyone vaccinated as quickly as possible. We are leaving the ongoing design and adaptation of our own vaccination plan to those on the ground running the clinics – under the leadership of Emily Musing, Jin Huh and Rebecca Repa – since we know that empowering the people closest to the work is the key to success.
  • Who presented? Emily Musing (Vice President), Rebecca Repa (Executive Vice President, Clinical Support and Performance), John Granton (Interim Medical Director, Health Services)

    What do I need to know? The members of ELF discussed the challenges around vaccinating as many healthcare workers as possible. The biggest limiting factor is supply of vaccine.

Digital: Network and telecom refresh plan

  • Background and why this was brought to ELF: UHN's network and telecom infrastructure requires a significant upgrade. Some parts of the infrastructure are more than 20 years old and have become unserviceable, meaning that replacement parts are no longer in production and must be sourced second hand when there is a system failure. This presents high levels of risk to our work and ability to serve patients. In 2019, you may recall we experienced a Code Grey for a few days at Toronto Western due to dated technology. We do not want to repeat this experience nor do we want to compromise Synapse, our Clinical Transformation journey.
  • Who presented? Carl Virtanen (Executive Director of Digital Operations and Research IT) and Sarah Muttitt (Chief Information Officer).
  • What do I need to know? The members of ELF approved the decision to proceed with Phase 1 of the network and telecom refresh plan, which falls within budget and will be complete before the launch of our new Health Information System.

Closing notes

One year has passed since the fatal crash of Flight PS752 which killed 176 people including 63 Canadians. I know that people close to UHN were among the lives lost and the impact of this tragedy continues to reverberate throughout our community. The memory of this unjust event remains hard for many – understandably so. On behalf of UHN's Board of Trustees and Senior Management Forum, our deepest condolences.

Opportunity for people in retail, hospitality, or administrative roles – who are now unemployed because of COVID-19 – to help seniors in long-term care. The Michener Institute of Education at UHN has partnered with the Province on their Ontario Workforce Reserve for Senior Support program. The purpose is to recruit, train and deploy people as Resident Support Aides (RSA) to work in long-term care homes. Read more on UHN News and share with anyone who might be interested.


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Have a good week,


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