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It will be the largest international multi-sport event Canada has ever seen, with more athletes and sports than the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and the Summer Games in Montreal in 1976.
And, just as the 10,000 athletes and team officials from 41 countries coming to this summer's Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games are completing their final preparations, so too are city hospitals.
"We want the Games to go incredibly well," says Marnie Weber, Executive Director, Strategic Developments at UHN and Chair of the Toronto Hospital Emergency Preparedness Committee. "But further, we want the legacy for Ontario to be stronger emergency preparedness at the systems level."
The Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) is leading the health-care sector preparation, working closely with UHN in that process.
UHN is a PanAm/Parapan Am designated hospital in the city, along with Toronto East General. That means from July 2 to August 17 – a period covering both sets of Games – it has to be ready to meet the health-care needs of the athletes, coaches and other accredited people in an emergency.
UHN is also working with all other Toronto hospitals, Toronto Emergency Medical Services, Toronto Community Care Access Centre, Toronto Public Health, the Toronto Central LHIN and the Ministry on emergency preparedness for an event that has great importance to the city and the province.
The aim is to limit any disruptions on the day-to-day running of the hospitals, so that for patients and staff it's "status quo" in spite of an influx of people here for the Games, Weber says.
Coordination of health services
Dr. Julia Alleyne, a primary care sport medicine physician practising at Toronto Rehab and Chief Medical Officer for the Games, says with the event spanning an area of Ontario that encompasses seven different LHINs and 13 municipalities this is an opportunity for all to work together.
"The legacy is the coordination of health services," Dr. Alleyne says. "That includes emergency preparedness, public health such as infection control, and policy coordinating opportunities."
Medical and emergency preparedness planning began even before Toronto officially launched a bid for the Games, which it won back in 2009. It further accelerated in 2011 when health officials attended the observers program to study how the Games were coordinated at the 2011 Pan Am and Parapan Ams in Guadalajara, Mexico.
July 10 opening ceremony
With Toronto 2015 barely five months away, the work to be ready is stepping up even further.
The opening ceremony of the Pan Am Games is set for July 10 at Rogers Centre. The Parapan Am Games open on August 7.
"The cornerstone of emergency preparedness is anticipating possible hazards and their impact, along with the development of corresponding response plans and mitigation strategies," noted the Pan Am/Para Pan Am Hospital Preparedness Checklist for the Games, which was issued by the Hospital Emergency Preparedness Committee.
The checklist identifies possible scenarios that might affect Toronto hospitals during the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games. They are heatwave/power failure; mass casualty event (Code Orange); infectious disease outbreaks; transportation interruptions; and, coordination and communication disconnects.
Each hospital in the areas across southern Ontario hosting the Games are to complete a review by March 31 to ensure its readiness to deal with potential risks associated with each scenario. These reviews include such things as testing back-up generators, reviewing their Code Orange protocols, and developing plans to deal with heat alerts or possible problems for staff and patients to get to the hospital due to traffic congestion.
One of the key parts of the joint planning work between the Toronto Central LHIN and UHN SIMS has been the development and implementation of an Emergency Management Communication Tool. This dashboard-style technology, which will be similar to that used during the G-20 meeting of world leaders in 2010, will be implemented in Toronto hospitals, by Toronto EMS and others to allow secure near-real time information sharing between health-care partners during the Games.
"It gives a number of pieces of information at one time and lets you know what you're dealing with," says Dr. Alleyne, adding "the three Cs" are keys to readiness – "coordinate, collaborate, communicate."
It's hoped that this tool, which will incorporate a number of different information feeds with a high level of automation, reducing the health-care sector's reliance on teleconferencing, will have lasting value after the Games.