Rising to the Challenge
Well before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, planning was in high gear at St. Joseph's in collaboration with London Health Sciences Centre and the Middlesex-London Health Unit.
Quickly creating capacity to support a surge of COVID-19 patients, protecting the safety of our patients, residents, staff and physicians through robust screening and testing, manning the city's COVID-19 assessment centres, navigating a global shortage of personal protective equipment, redeploying staff and physicians, and paying attention to the well-being of those on the frontlines. These are just some of the complexities, challenges and remarkable achievements of St. Joseph's as we continue to respond to this global health emergency.
At the same time, we are finding new ways to meet the needs of those in our care. Without leaving the safety of their homes, patients are receiving care, education and therapy through phone-based counselling and assessments, online resources, e-newsletters, telemedicine, web-ex appointments, video technology and more. All are being tapped with excellent results and appreciative feedback. Community care initiatives to keep patients out of hospital, and changes in long-term care designed to protect the most vulnerable are other changes that will serve us well in the future.
We are in this together and will be all the stronger for it.
Born to Move
Mobility is a precious gift that can be taken away in an instant through trauma, or slowly slip away with illness and/or age. Loss of mobility can derail a person's quality of life, lead to social isolation and create additional medical issues. As Canada's demographics change, mobility challenges will become even more prevalent.
To tackle and fuel discovery in this area of growing medical concern, St. Joseph's is developing a new clinical and research space at Parkwood Institute. The Gray Centre for Mobility & Activity will promote people's capacity to remain mobile throughout their lives and enable researchers, clinicians and community partners to share knowledge and test new solutions to the problems of mobility and activity across multiple patient populations.
Equipped with the latest health care equipment and technologies, the centre was made possible through a historic $7.5 million gift to St. Joseph's Health Care Foundation by local couple, Bill and Lynne Gray.
Partners in Care
Across St. Joseph's, patients and family caregivers have become essential partners impacting patient care, organizational processes, education and research, the care environment and design, quality improvement, and more.
This evolution in the role of patients, residents and families has been the focal point of St. Joseph's three-year Improving CARE Together project aimed at improving the family caregiver experience and incorporating a strong caregiver voice in program and organizational planning.
As an example, St. Joseph's Family Presence Policy was developed by staff, patients and family caregivers in a co-design process. This corporate policy, which came into effect June 1, 2019, recognizes the vital role of family caregivers in patient and resident care and means family caregivers are welcome at any time with consideration to the safety and well-being of all. (During the COVID-19 pandemic, please note that only essential visitors are permitted.)
While the Improving CARE Together project, funded by Change Foundation, came to an end March 31, the work to partner with family caregivers, along with patients and residents, continues. St. Joseph's has established a Care Partnership Office, which will have a dedicated team to spearhead patient and family partner recruitment, lead co-design initiatives and provide consultation and support to ensure patient and family partners are embedded throughout our organization.
A Three-peat in Exemplary Performance
St. Joseph's Health Care London, which has already held the highest designation given by Accreditation Canada for the past eight years, once again received “Accredited with Exemplary Standing," extending the title to 12 years. This achievement is a testament to the tremendous dedication of staff and physicians to quality and safety.
During the accreditation onsite survey held in the fall of 2019, St. Joseph's performance was evaluated against a total of 1,980 standards and met 1,973 - a 99.6 per cent grade. In addition, every single Required Organizational Practice (ROP) was met. An ROP is an essential practice that organizations must have in place to enhance patient/client safety and minimize risk.
Accreditation Canada took special note of St. Joseph's commitment to patients, engaged volunteers and physicians, and highly respected reputation in the community. Surveyors praised St. Joseph's responsiveness to feedback from patients and their families, strong academic and research focus, favorable financial position, St. Joseph's Health Care London Foundation support, and commitment to psychological health and safety.
Information at their Fingertips
‘Knowledge is power' is a popular proverb that pertains to all aspects of life. For those living with an illness or disability, knowledge can make all the difference in successful self-care.
At St. Joseph's, breast care patients are being empowered to manage their health by putting vital personal health information into their hands. They are participating as early adopters of a patient portal called MyChart, a secure online service that gives patients, and their substitute decision makers, access to their medical records from various participating hospitals and home and community care services. The vision is to provide patients and their family caregivers a single digital channel to access their health information so they can be better informed and engaged in their own care.
Launched in June 2019, more than 2100 individuals have enrolled in MyChart through the Breast Care Program, and positive reviews of this convenient tool are growing. One patient with cancer says “it is nice to read my radiology reports myself" and “reassuring" to see that the treatment plan is working. Another patient appreciates “having my information at my fingertips."
Work is underway to expand MyChart to other programs.
An Enthusiastic Endorsement
St. Joseph's is a place you want to volunteer – so says those who would know. Nearly 90 per cent of volunteers at St. Joseph's recommend the organization as a place to give of your time and skills.
In the Standardized Volunteer Opinion Survey administered in November 2019 by the Professional Association of Volunteer Leaders – Ontario, volunteer satisfaction was measured against other hospitals in the province. This year's survey was completed by more than 4,200 volunteers at 45 health care centres and sites across Ontario, including 192 volunteers (20 per cent) at St. Joseph's.
Among all hospitals, St. Joseph's was a standout in overall volunteer experience and impact with nearly 80 per cent of volunteers saying they feel their work makes the hospital a better place. They also feel appreciated with 90 per cent reporting their placement area makes good use of their time, they receive respect and thanks from staff, and the organization values their contributions.
In non-COVID-19 times, a diverse group of nearly 1,000 volunteers ages 14 to 90 work in 87 areas or programs, where they enrich our culture of compassion and the patient and resident experience.
Supportive Housing Success
It's well recognized that supportive housing is essential to living well in the community for those with mental illness, yet many patients have no adequate destination after discharge from hospital.
This struggle has been the focus of much advocacy efforts by mental health care leaders at St. Joseph's. They have been working with Indwell, a reputable, not-for-profit housing development and service provider that develops and operates high-support housing. St. Joseph's advocacy efforts, along with those of various partners, resulted in the South West LHIN committing new funding for supportive apartments in London and Woodstock purchased and developed by Indwell.
In July 2019, Indwell opened Woodfield Gate in London, a 70-unit supportive and affordable living apartment facility for those who face challenges accessing quality housing. Many of those tenants are St. Joseph's patients who are now enjoying a stable home – some for the first time – that is helping them to be successful community members.
St. Joseph's continues to work with Indwell. The Christian charity was recently awarded St. Joseph's Community Partner of Distinction Award recognizing partnership and collaboration – essential requirements of health care delivery and community service.
Stemming the Spread
Since 2016, when the alert sounded about skyrocketing rates of HIV in London, Dr. Michael Silverman has been working on all fronts to understand the problem, treat patients and stem the spread. His diligence and compassion for those he serves has had groundbreaking results.
Dr. Silverman, a Lawson Health Research Institute scientist and Medical Director of St. Joseph's Infectious Diseases Program, forged a citywide team from Lawson and Western University that discovered HIV can be transmitted through the sharing of equipment used to prepare drugs before injection. The team also found a simple solution. Heating the equipment with a cigarette lighter for 10 seconds can destroy the HIV virus, preventing transmission. These landmark results were published in August 2019 in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.
Partnering with local community organizations like the Middlesex-London Health Unit and Regional HIV/AIDS Connection, ‘Cook Your Wash' was launched as a public health campaign. As a result, local rates of HIV infection have fallen dramatically.
The team hopes this research can be used to inform understanding and interventions in other centres facing HIV epidemics among persons who inject drugs.
Getting it Right
From handrails, hardware and rocking chairs, to weighted blankets, wall murals, a lounge redesign and much more, senior input is behind a diverse range of projects at St. Joseph's to make our buildings and care areas more senior friendly.
As part of St. Joseph's Strategic Plan to embed Senior Friendly Care into every aspect of our organization, we invite seniors to work with us to identify and implement innovative ways to improve access, quality and continuity of care for older adults.
Funding has been made available to units, departments and programs across the organization to co-design initiatives that will improve health equity for older adults. This one-time funding aims to empower staff, physicians, volunteers and students to partner in co-design with colleagues, community partners, patients, residents and caregivers. Ideas are also being sought from older adult patients and their family members.
The senior-friendly funding can be used for a quality improvement initiative, renovations to existing infrastructure, the purchase of new equipment, devices or furniture, staff training and development, and other projects.