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Good Monday morning,

Thank you all for your hard work in response to COVID-19 – in addition to our broader, continued work in service of patients and families. Given the seriousness of the COVID-19 situation, I am focusing this weekly update on what we are doing to keep patients, providers and Canadians safe.

1. Today’s major change: Screening at hospital entrances for patients and visitors will be in place by end of today.

All members of TeamUHN are expected to self-screen for fever, cough, shortness of breath, runny nose and sore throat. You must stay home if sick. Here are some additional reminders: 

  • Wear your UHN ID badge at all times to access your site. For colleagues working in non-clinical sites (LuCliff, OPG and Atrium on Bay), please wear your UHN ID badge if you are expected to work at our hospitals or research towers. 
  • Certain entrances will be closed to limit in-person traffic. Each site has identified key entrances to keep open. Certain areas will be card access only. You may need to exit and re-enter sites as some connections will be closed.
  • UHN Shuttle Bus is for staff only until further notice. Please wear your UHN ID badge to access the shuttle.
  • Patients and visitors will be screened at entrances based on symptoms, not travel. Thanks to all the teams who helped us prepare for this change over the weekend. We are notifying patients through UHN.ca and myUHN Patient Portal. It will take time for patients and visitors to become aware of this change, so we ask that you respond with patience and compassion during this transition period.

2. Additional key COVID-19 status updates at UHN

In response to COVID-19, Toronto’s hospitals and the broader health system are working in close partnership and taking a unified approach when it comes to our safety protocols. It is important we take a unified approach within UHN as well. Quality and safety hinge on clear communications and consistent approaches.

Here are updates as of Monday, March 16 at 7:45 a.m.:

  • Please be diligent with self-screening. During these challenging times, we must be prepared to respectfully call out colleagues if they come to work and are showing symptoms. Demonstrate calmness in your words, tone and body language.
  •  COVID-19 Assessment Centres: Centres are opening across the Greater Toronto Area. Our colleagues at Women’s College Hospital opened an assessment centre over the weekend. UHN is also working towards opening an assessment centre on our Toronto Western campus this week. Information on how to access the UHN COVID-19 Assessment Centre will be shared when it becomes available.
  •  Reducing ambulatory activity: All programs have been asked to reduce non-essential clinical activity. We are working hard to move as many ambulatory clinical appointments to virtual visits as our technology and bandwidth permits. If you have cancellations, send them to website@uhn.ca and our colleagues on the UHN Web Team will add them to the central UHN.ca COVID-19 page.
  •  Using virtual care via Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) and telephone to reduce in-person traffic in and out of our sites: Currently there are 420 UHN physicians registered with OTN and we are working with the OTN executive team to expedite OTNhub onboarding for remaining UHN Physicians and their administrative assistants. In the meanwhile, those without OTN access, are encouraged to connect with patients through the telephone. Physicians can claim the equivalent of the in-person service fee listed in the OHIP Schedule of Benefits for patient video/telephone visits. Read more here.
  • Maintaining adequate supplies – do not double mask with procedure and N95 masks. Use one or the other as appropriate. It is also important to only use masks when needed as guided by the isolation signage outside a patient's room, or as per appropriate clinical assessment. Last week, all Ontario hospitals started using droplet and contact precautions when assessing, testing and caring for suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients. Read the full message here. A reminder to only use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including masks, as required by UHN policy and practice for patient care and/or working with hazardous materials. 
  •  N95 respirator fit tests continue to be available. ONLY health care workers who may be required to work under airborne precautions are required to have an N95 respirator fit test completed every 2 years. For updated information on health care workers who require N95 respirator fit testing please refer to: COVID-19 N95 respirator fit test requirement update
  •  Travel recommendation – do not travel outside of Canada unless absolutely necessary and self-screen for symptoms upon return. As long as you are not showing symptoms of respiratory illness, you are asked to return to work even if you have recently returned from travel outside of Canada. We recognize this is currently different from Toronto Public Health’s (TPH) recommendation, however we have consulted with our TPH colleagues and they agree health care workers are absolutely needed and should report to work. This will be the practice at peer hospitals in our region for the foreseeable future.
  • Cancelling unnecessary meetings and hosting teleconferences and virtual meetings as needed: UHN Digital will be releasing a list of approved resources for running virtual meetings early this week and look at setting up additional teleconference lines for sites. In the interest of efficiency and security, it is important we use the same tools so we can effectively coordinate between departments and teams. In the meantime, please use existing approved tools such as Skype. 
  •  Working from home – UHN response: The Chief Human Resources Officers of TAHSN’s (Toronto Academic Health Science Network) hospitals are looking at work-from-home models and policies. We’re aiming to send something out by end of day and will share the broader TAHSN policy as soon as it is finalized. We need to ensure adequate staff is on site to provide services, as well as screening and support.  
  •  Working while pregnant and nursing – UHN response: Based on available evidence, colleagues who are pregnant and nursing can still come in to work. We will not be assigning pregnant and nursing employees to care for patients suspected to have COVID-19. 
  •  Concerns around child care: Many of our TeamUHN members will be facing childcare challenges with the closure of public schools. We will be posting suggestions and community resources to assist parents on the Human Resources Intranet by the end of the day.
  • UHN volunteers – volunteer service and non-clinical placements have been suspended until further notice: A few exceptions have been identified to help support UHN’s COVID-19 response including volunteers to monitor handwashing. In the interest of patient and volunteer safety, we are suspending all non-essential volunteer service within our sites until further notice.   
  • Support for TeamUHN well-being: We remain committed to quality of work life at UHN and recognize this is an especially challenging time for many reasons, not limited to the tensions that staff may be feeling between duty to care and personal safety. Please alert your manager if you need support or contact our Employee Assistance Program. We anticipate that staff will have a need for quiet spaces and respite. To that end, our Wellness Team is working to identify designated spaces where staff can safely go to rest, refresh and receive information. 
  • Supporting vulnerable populations: Inner City Health Associates is working closely with Toronto Public Health and UHN to support patients experiencing homelessness. They have opened a 48-bed isolation site. We are working on getting patients who are showing symptoms in our Emergency Departments to this site. 
  • Research: For additional research-specific COVID-19 updates and guidance, please see the Research Intranet page. Updates include specific messaging for laboratory and clinical-based researchers on what they need to do now, and the development of individual plans for scaling back (or even shutting down) non-essential research work, as well as other operational and service changes. Investigators have been asked to delay recruitment of research fellows until further notice. Information for research participants is available here.
  •  Education: For additional learner-specific COVID-19 updates, please see the COVID-19 learner updates page on UHN.ca.
    1. Michener Institute: We are working hard to keep Michener students on track for graduating – and will do all we can while protecting their safety. All in-person classes at Michener will be delivered online. All discretionary learning including continuing education will be delivered online until April 30 (a decision on whether to continue online learning will be made following this date). 
    2.  Learners: The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada has postponed all residency exams. Residents and fellows in clinical rotations are still working and providing care. Medical student clinical learning has been paused. The College of Nurses of Ontario has paused clinical learning for RN, RPN and NP learners. This is understandably distressing to learners as it impacts their education and training. Thank you to UHN physicians, nurses and staff for offering counsel and supporting them during this time.
  • · Finance: We are tracking incremental costs related to COVID-19 at UHN. In addition to this, our colleagues in Finance are drafting a policy on what to do with issues related to hospital travel/conference cancellation costs etc. We will send that out to UHN’s Leadership Forum as soon as it is ready.

3. TODAY: COVID-19 Virtual Open Forum

COVID-19 Virtual Open Forum


Today, we are hosting a virtual Open forum to answer your COVID-19 questions. Submit and vote on questions by clicking here or visit Slido.com and enter #UHNCOVID-19. As always, we will start with questions that receive the most votes. In the interest of covering as much new ground as possible, please read this update and visit the COVID-19 Intranet page prior to submitting. 

Dr. Susy Hota (Medical Director, Infection Prevention & Control), Ms. Janet Newton (Vice President and Site Lead, Toronto Western), Ms. Darlene Dasent (Chief Financial Officer), Ms. Emma Pavlov (Executive Vice President, Human Resources), Ms. Gillian Howard (Vice President, Public Affairs & Communications), Dr. Brad Wouters (Executive Vice President, Science & Research) and I will be hosting the event. 

  • Submit questions about COVID-19:Click here or go to Slido.com and enter #UHNCOVID-19.
  •  Date: Monday, March 16, 2020 
  • Time: 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
  • Livestream:Available here (Chrome or Firefox). We recognize this is an especially busy time – so please note that a video recording will be sent out shortly after.
  • Location: N/A – this is a VIRTUAL Open Forum. 

We have allocated time for a second Open Forum on Wednesday, March 18 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. if there is a need to address additional concerns. Stay tuned for confirmation.

4. Where to get COVID-19 information  

Have a good week and thank you, 

Kevin


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