UHN frontline staff
Staff enjoying a UHN respite centre to rest and recharge during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: UHN)

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, UHN's healthcare heroes have given everything they have to care for patients and keep our communities safe.

When our hospitals were hit with the worst of the pandemic, UHN's donor community stepped up to ensure that hospital staff could care for themselves while caring for others.

Here are a few of the initiatives that donor support helped fund during the third wave.

Meals and vouchers

UHN Foundation provided 50,000 meal vouchers to frontline UHN staff through three rounds of giving. The vouchers ensured staff could receive a free meal during their shift. The vouchers also provided important support to the food retailers within the hospitals whose revenue have been negatively affected throughout the pandemic.

In addition to the voucher program, generous donors supplied more than 3,400 meals during the third wave, which were handed out to hospital staff by the Foundation.

Hundreds of gift cards were also given to those working at remote sites without food retailers, ensuring all frontline staff working for UHN had to chance to benefit from a hot meal, free of charge.

“I wanted to personally let you know how happy people have been with the food vouchers," Dr. Susan Abbey, UHN Psychiatrist-in-Chief, said in thanks. “They have been a ray of sunshine in a dark storm.

“One nurse said it 'feels like Christmas morning.' In one ward, there was a group who had all gone down and got a Booster Juice and then sat on the front lawn for 10 minutes – one of them teared up as she said how much it meant to be recognized for her work.

“Deepest thanks to the donors and Foundation!"

Hotel stays

The Rest Safe program was initiated by donors with help from the Fairmont Royal York Hotel to allow our courageous frontline workers to limit the risk to their family members while relaxing and recuperating in a hotel before their next shift. Throughout the third wave, 709 reservations for a total of 2,709 hotel night stays were used by staff. For the entire run of the program beginning in March 2020, close to 10,000 nights have been provided.

“Staying at the Fairmont Royal York to isolate from my loved ones really helped me with my mental and emotional health – I would say this was way better than any rehab session I could attend," says UHN registered nurse G. Ramos. “It put my mind at ease and gave me reassurance that we as healthcare providers are not left alone in this.

“I would like to give a big thank you to the Fairmont Royal York Hotel and UHN Foundation for making this experience possible. Because of all of you, I continue to go to work ready and willing to give my best each day and with pride in being part of UHN."


Respite centres

UHN Wellness opened respite centres in the hospitals at the beginning of the pandemic to allow for a quiet place for staff to rest and recharge on breaks or before or after their shift.

Thanks to the generosity of donors, UHN Foundation was able to provide beverages, snacks and art supplies. During the third wave, there were 31,000 visits to the respite centres, and close to 154,000 since the start of the pandemic.

“Words cannot express my gratitude for the beautiful space and friendly staff at the respite centre," says UHN social worker Maggie Ho. “I might be stressed and had a bad day but once I enter my worries are gone.  I feel relaxed and calm.  All the staff have just positive energy and are always grateful and attentive when I visit. 

“I love admiring all the artwork that our colleagues have contributed. It's nice to see that we all have hidden talents. I truly hope the respite centre will continue after the pandemic is over. This is a well-needed oasis that has truly helped me feel grounded and recharged for the day. Thank you!"

UHN Foundation is honoured to support UHN's healthcare heroes, and it wouldn't be possible without the incredible generosity and dedication that donors have shown during the pandemic.

While hope is that the worst is behind us, we must continue to ensure that UHN staff have the support they need to continue the fight against COVID-19, and to recover from the emotional and physical tolls this pandemic has taken.

They give us hope. Let's keep them going. You can support the highest-priority needs of our hospitals and our healthcare heroes by making a donation today.​​

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