Good morning, TeamUHN!

It is a pleasure to connect with you across care, research, and education through this weekly CEO update – all in service of A Healthier World.

Key reminders and updates

  • Last week, the Ontario government expanded eligibility for second COVID-19 booster doses to Ontarians aged 18 and over. These shots are being offered at an interval of five months after an individual received their first booster dose. It must also be at least three months since a COVID-19 infection. As Dr. Kieran Moore, the Chief Medical Officer of Health, said, "staying up to date on vaccination is the best protection against severe outcomes from COVID-19." Starting last Thursday, Ontarians were able to book appointments through the COVID-19 vaccination portal or by calling the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900. Previously, second boosters were limited to Ontarians 60 years or older, as well as those living in long-term care homes, Indigenous people over the age of 18, and the immunocompromised. The province is also extending the availability of free rapid antigen tests. This is welcome news as we work to protect our patients and our hospital capacity in this new wave. Learn more about these changes on the Government of Ontario website.
  • My thanks to the Mid-West Ontario Health Team for hosting a clinic for TeamUHN members and up to three of their family members to get their third and fourth vaccine doses this week. The clinic is at the Toronto Western Family Health Team at 440 Bathurst St., 3rd-floor entrance (via Fresh Co.), and started taking appointments Sunday. While appointments for this week filled up very quickly, you check for any open spots here. When clicking the link, please enter 1999 next to the group number. Appointments for booster shots can also be booked on the provincial portal.
  • Health Canada has approved Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine for children between the ages of six months and five years old. This is the first COVID vaccine approved by the regulator for infants and preschoolers – a move that will expand eligibility to almost two million kids. The Moderna vaccine can be given to young children in doses one-quarter the size of those approved for adults. It requires two doses, given roughly four weeks apart. Pfizer's COVID vaccine for children between six months and five years old is still under review by Health Canada. Learn more from Health Canada.
  • Provincial and territorial premiers met in Victoria last week to again call on the federal government to increase its share of healthcare funding. As B.C. Premier John Horgan said, "the whole continuum of care needs to be revisited, and now's the time to do that." Premiers have called on Ottawa to make a $28 billion annual increase to the Canada Health Transfer, increasing the federal share of healthcare spending from 22 per cent to 35 per cent. The federal government argues that those figures don't reflect tax points transferred to the provinces and other health-related funding, and any increase in federal funding must come with strings attached. As I said on Twitter, this issue is about more than money – it's about how we serve patients, ensure a full scope of practice, build resilient teams, and standardize care using the best research. While the premiers and the federal government are well-intentioned in their beliefs, continued rhetoric is unlikely to spur solutions. I believe Canadians are entitled to a process to offer options and guardrails for our future system. Research already shows what higher-performing systems look like (and how they are funded). I hope we will see bold leadership – which we would be happy to contribute to – and real action to create the system that patients and providers deserve. The amazing resources of UHN stand ready to work with all to create a sustainable, high-quality, patient-focused system – built on research and innovation.
  • The federal government will resume mandatory random COVID-19 testing for international travellers at four major airports – including in Toronto's – this Tuesday. Ottawa paused random testing for fully vaccinated visitors in June amid concerns about delays at airports. All testing will now be done at off-site locations, such as pharmacies. Travellers can also book a virtual self-swab appointment. This change will affect travelers arriving in Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, and Montreal. Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos says the step will help the government track the importation of the COVID-19 virus and new variants of concern. Learn more about this change in this press release from the Government of Canada.

Closing Notes

A new pilot group therapy program at Toronto Rehab's Lyndhurst Centre is expanding mental health services for inpatients of the Spinal Cord Rehab Program. Though patients have always benefitted from one-on-one psychology services at the hospital, this program allows them to discuss injuries, illness, and coping strategies with other patients facing similar challenges. As one inspiring patient, Elizabeth Machado, told UHN News, "being in a group setting has helped me realize that feeling scared or vulnerable is normal. Hearing from somebody else who has gone through a similar experience makes me realize there are other ways of looking at things that I could try, too." Read this UHN News story to discover more about the difference that this program is already making.

A UHN-led study shows the impact of patient partners on improving hospital services. The study, led by Dr. Anna Gagliardi at the Toronto General Hospital Research Institute, involved interviews with a range of stakeholders at nine hospitals that seek patient participation in planning and improving clinical programs. It found that there are multiple benefits for patients and their families, as well as physicians and staff when patient partners are engaged in designing care. "Patients felt that their needs were seriously considered," Dr. Gagliardi told UHN News. "Physicians and hospital staff felt that they communicated better with their patients, were more efficient in providing healthcare, felt more confident and at ease with their work, and enjoyed their work more." Read more about this research and its findings at UHN News.

Dr. Susy Hota had a great interview with CBC's "Cross Country Checkup" last week, where she answered questions about the seventh wave of the pandemic. She explained why this latest spike, driven by the growth of the BA.5 subvariant, which has more potential for immune evasion, has sparked feelings of uncertainty. As Dr. Hota said, this wave will be different than previous waves because it is playing out amid the de-escalation of public health restrictions. We are also seeing a rise in infections among people previously infected with COVID-19. Listen to Dr. Hota's full segment on CBC's website.


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Have a good week,


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