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For Support Services Week, Nov. 15 to 21, UHN News is going behind-the-scenes of the organization to celebrate the staff who make up Support Services within the Facilities Management – Planning, Redevelopment & Operations (FM-PRO) Department.
From housekeeping staff to building operators, they are important members of TeamUHN 24/7, 365 days a year – and even more so throughout the pandemic.
They have risen to the challenges brought on by COVID-19, from enhanced cleaning and disinfection of all public and patient areas of UHN, to programming air filtration systems to use 100 per cent fresh air, securing additional HEPA filters to improve ventilation and helping set up critical care expansion with appropriate power, water, supplies, stock and more.
These teams are an integral part of the frontline, keeping UHN sites reliable, comfortable, sustainable and safe, so UHN can continue transforming lives and communities through excellence in patient care, research and education.
Facilities: The team that keeps the hospitals up and running
It's hard to keep up with Kevin Roias, building operator at Toronto Western Hospital (TWH).
"I walk a little too fast in this place, but I'm trying to get everywhere I can," he says.
FM-PRO building operators such as Kevin ensure the capability and reliability of UHN's critical infrastructure, which includes heating, cooling, ventilation systems, plumbing, electrical distribution, elevators, pneumatic tube and medical gas systems.
"We handle everything from temperature calls, to toilets and electrical," says Kevin. "We keep the hospital going, essentially.
"You want to do things so quickly that people don't even notice there was a problem in the first place."
When he first started in the role a year-and-a-half ago, a sprinkler head was knocked off the ceiling in the Emergency Department.
Kevin and his colleagues responded within minutes.
"We responded really quickly and had the damage minimized," he says.
When he's not responding to calls, he's doing preventative maintenance – checking on plumbing to prevent floods or checking motors and fans to prevent critical downtime.
He loves the problem solving aspect of the job – and interacting with patients. Whenever he enters a patient room, he takes time to chat and explain what he's doing.
"To me, we're all dealing with the patients," he says.
The team behind your clean scrubs: Linen and Laundry
Although many staff grab scrubs from a Scrubex machine, there is a small but mighty team who wash, dry and fold by hand those signature royal blue scrubs each and every day.
Dominic Page, laundry sorter/washer at Toronto Western Hospital (TWH), says he folds about 500 pairs of scrubs each shift.
"We spend a lot of time washing, drying and folding them and making sure they're perfect," he says.
Before the pandemic, there was only one shift per day for Linen and Laundry. During the height of the pandemic, that increased to three shifts as many staff transitioned to scrubs as a safety precaution.
Now, they're at two shifts per day.
"It's non-stop: wash, fold, wash, fold, wash fold," says Dominic. "We spend a lot of time making sure every set is pristine."
While the workload has increased, the biggest challenge is finding a freshly cleaned and folded pair of scrubs returned to the dirty Scrubex machine, often because a colour is faded.
Even though the returned scrubs are clean and folded, they must be washed, dried and folded again.
The team also frequently finds belongings in pockets – from medication, to headphones and credit cards. Rest assured, when they find a credit card, they try to connect with the cardholder, or leave it with Security.
Your best bet? Always check your pockets before tossing the day's scrubs!
Nearly 50 years of serving up healthy meals to patients
After 47 years of serving up meals for hospital patients, Maurice Tyson is known for his incredible attention to detail and time management skills.
As a FM-PRO nutrition porter at Toronto Rehab's University Centre, Maurice helps the team assemble and deliver meals across the site.
Nutrition Services relies on incredible precision. All of the retherm pods (machines that heat and cool the food) are set on strict timers and if one is opened too early, it restarts the process and meal delivery could be delayed. As a result, nutrition porters follow strict time sheets when it comes to preparing and delivering the day's meals.
Although the job is always under a time crunch, Maurice has it down to a science.
Each morning, he checks in with the diet office and reviews notes to ensure the right meal gets to the right patient – as allergies, sensitivities and therapeutic diets are often involved.
"If you give the wrong meal to a patient, you cause problems," he says. "In a hospital – it's pretty important."
Maurice and his colleagues don't take the responsibility lightly – when the beltline (preparing plates) is in progress and meal time is approaching, the kitchen is quiet, except for the clattering of dishes.
"You're not here for yourself, you're here to make sure everything runs smoothly and the patients get what they need," says Maurice. "That's what I try to do every day."
Handling with care: Mail Services at UHN
If you need to find your way around Toronto Western Hospital (TWH), Dan Batista is one of the best resources.
A hospital assistant in Mail Services with FM-PRO, Dan has spent most of the past 40 years navigating the site to ensure timely and efficient mail delivery.
He starts every morning in the mailroom, located in the basement of TWH. He goes through every piece of mail and sorts it, before walking the hospital to deliver the mail to all units. When items arrive with missing details (like the floor or unit), Dan is responsible for tracking down the information and delivering it to the appropriate staff.
"Every day is a good day," says Dan. "I love to go upstairs and deliver the mail and talk with staff."
Dan is one of six full-time staff who work in the mailrooms (located at TWH, Toronto General Hospital, Toronto Rehab's University Centre and Princess Margaret Cancer Centre), providing fast, reliable mail delivery service to all departments Monday to Friday. They also stamp all outgoing mail destined for Canada Post and oversee interoffice mail.
They average about 4,000 pieces of outgoing mail every day from all sites. The only mail they don't process is couriered items – those go to Receiving.
Empathy and advocacy all part of being a Porter
Sue-Anna Rodney's favourite memory as a Princess Margaret Cancer Centre porter took place on a TTC bus in Toronto.
While travelling along Bathurst St. a few years ago, she felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned around to find a patient she used to transfer around the hospital and chat with about video games.
"I barely recognized him," she recalls. "He had a full head of hair, he said he's leading a good life and even going to school.
"He remembered me – that was a really good moment."
Fellow porter Jason Miller – who's worked at Princess Margaret for 20 years – says that's a common occurrence, as they spend a lot of time with patients in between appointments and waiting rooms.
"We see a lot, we hear a lot," he says.
The job requires empathy, care – and advocacy.
For example, both Sue-Anna and Jason responded to a transfer call last summer and arrived to find the patient in extreme discomfort.
"We saw that this patient was in such pain any time she moved," says Jason.
They decided to transfer her in the bed she was in, instead of moving her to a stretcher.
"We de-escalated and said we could easily just take the bed and bring another one back to replace it," he says.
The clinical staff later sent a note acknowledging how they went "above and beyond."
"This shows compassion, care and empathy," the note reads. "Thank you for demonstrating to us all what patient-centred care encompasses."
Environmental Services: 'More than just cleaning'
When Toronto General Hospital Environmental Services (EVS) aide Claudine Lumbao cleaned and disinfected COVID-positive patient rooms, she made a point to share her own COVID story.
She, her husband, father-in-law and kids contracted the virus from the community in March 2020. While the family struggled with symptoms for a few weeks, they came through the other side of it. She'd share this with patients as she worked the COVID-19 unit through Waves One, Two and Three.
"I tell them they're going to be fine and offer some positivity," says Claudine. "They feel alone … They want to know they'll be okay."
The pandemic drastically increased Claudine's workload. At the beginning, Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC), along with EVS, implemented "double terminal cleans," which means every time a COVID-19-positive patient was discharged, EVS did a deep clean from floor to ceiling twice and even took down the curtains to wash. (Double terminal cleans were eliminated after Wave Three, in keeping with updated IPAC protocols).
A Support Services Supervisor, such as TGH's Yinny Chen, would then inspect every one of those rooms.
She'd check all touchpoints (doorknobs, railings, etc.) and even take apart the bed to "double check every nook and cranny."
While it's been a lot of work, Yinny believes it helped staff like Claudine build better relationships with patients.
"Sometimes we spend more time in the room than clinical staff, because it takes longer to clean a room," says Yinny, adding that aides end up being an ear for patients who want to share their concerns, diagnoses, just chat, or if they need something like a glass of water.
"Environmental Services is so much more than just cleaning," she says. "We keep everyone safe, we're a sounding board and when people need help, we're kind of their voice – we're right there."