​​I have learned over a long career that when you make a mistake, you step forward, own it and then move on.

Recently we installed a grate over the vent outside Toronto General’s Emergency Department. The grate is designed to prevent people from using the vent as a bed and, as I’ve come to learn, it is termed hostile architecture. It has prevented people who are homeless from using the grate to keep warm and, given our responsibility to provide compassionate care, it has indeed been seen as hostile and not something a hospital should be doing, given the care we provide to everyone who comes through our doors.

The grate was installed because the area is high traffic with ambulances, cars and people all using the Gerrard Street entrance. We were also seeing garbage and needles left around the grate which required attention and raised safety concerns because of the needles. But, in solving that problem, we created the impression that we are unfeeling and unconcerned about the needs of the homeless.

Of course, this isn’t true. People at UHN are kind, compassionate and provide daily care for people who don’t have a home. ​And, you let us know that you believed we had made the wrong decision about installing the grate.

So, I am writing to let you know that you’ve been heard. We will remove the grate, work Security and Facilities to make sure that the area is safe and secure, and work with our staff in the Emergency Department to see if there is more that can be done to get additional support for people who don’t have a place to live. I certainly recognize that this a problem that is bigger than UHN, but I want you to know that people’s concerns and compassion have made a difference. My thanks to all of you and to my colleagues for their work in stepping back and thinking about new solutions to a very difficult scenario. 

Charlie ​

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