Dr. John Granton, a physician on the Medical Surgical Intensive Care Unit at Toronto General Hospital, says virtual care and greater collaboration in the healthcare system are examples of silver linings during the pandemic. (Photo: UHN)

With the Omicron Wave receding and March 11 marking the second anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic, UHN News is asking TeamUHN members how they're doing, what they've learned, how they're coping and what the future looks like.

For two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought unprecedented illness and death.

With each wave, healthcare workers and hospital systems were stretched beyond capacity.

"It was a pretty serious disruption of an ecosystem – it wasn't subtle," says Dr. John Granton, intensive care physician on the Medical Surgical Intensive Care Unit (MSICU) at Toronto General Hospital.

"The ongoing impact on the healthcare system, led to a lot of the public health measures and the 'circuit breaker' stuff that people referred to that was mainly because of the need to protect our healthcare system."

A primary concern now is the fallout for patients such as delayed surgeries and treatment.

"Our wait times are going to go back up and our backlogs are going to go back up," says Dr. Granton.

Pulse of UHN 

Equally concerning to Dr. Granton is the fallout for staff.

"People need a long vacation, you know I think it's just gone on too long for most people," he says. "And I think you're seeing that frustration in the community, and our healthcare teams are just getting worn out.

"We're seeing not only attrition in the different areas, but also people are just sick because of the community prevalence, so we had more exposed healthcare workers and more COVID positive healthcare workers."

Through it all, Dr. Granton is determined to find the good.

"Churchill said: 'Never let a good crisis, go to waste'. There's always learnings that you can pull from this, that will translate into improvements down the road within the healthcare system."

Dr. Granton points to several examples of improvement already in play.

"The whole virtual care aspect, the efficiencies of providing care, and, the focus now on long-term care, which we have to make better," says Dr. Granton. "This virus exposed the weaknesses in the system and by doing that it forced us to become efficient and look at our system in a different way."

There's evidence of that now with greater collaboration at the system level, where hospitals helped other hospitals with patient overflow across Ontario and the country, he says.

And on the frontlines Dr. Granton says "…you had medical students and residents and physician extenders who were assisting and working with nurses. I think there will be some learnings from that to how teams work together and understand each other's jobs and roles.

"That's a good thing, and it was the pandemic that forced us to do that."

As for the path that leads us out of the crisis – Dr. Granton is categorical.

"The only way that's going to happen is if we get vaccinated," he says. "Honest to God, so we can all move on and get on with our lives, j​ust get the fricking shots."

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