You and I, our community and our entire world are living through a challenging time. The current global pandemic has forced us to adapt our lives in ways we might never have imagined. Things that were once normal parts of life are now impossible, and the simplest things have become the most important. Above all it has shown how caring our community is, that we rally around each other in times of need and that we are stronger together.
You may be wondering what has changed at CHEO and I can tell you honestly that in some ways everything has changed and in others CHEO is still the same, providing care to children, youth and families who need our help.
So, what’s different? Even before I arrive each morning the reality of COVID-19 has touched my day. Like all staff coming into the hospital I must complete the online Entrance Screen questionnaire that assesses my health and that of the people in my household. Even physically entering the building is different, I use one of only two open entrances where screeners are waiting to check my questionnaire and confirm that I have no visible signs of illness. As I pass this checkpoint I must clean my hands, take a mask and then begin my workday.
Most of my colleagues are not walking the halls anymore, every single person who can work from home is doing so. All non-essential in person appointments and surgeries have been postponed and CHEO’s Emergency Department, one of the busiest in Canada, is quieter. While we are always careful about preventing the spread of infections at CHEO, right now all the staff are hyper-vigilant about not doing so. Certain areas of the hospital have been specially designated to care for patients who might have COVID-19, there are quarantine spaces and health care workers are in full protective gear when caring for patients who do or might have COVID-19. This includes a multi-step process of gowning, gloving and masking that frontline staff have been trained on and that their peers watch them perform to ensure no cross contamination happens.
You might think this creates a cold and scary place, but this is CHEO after all, and I can assure you that the genuine smiles radiating from behind each mask are as warm and welcoming as ever. Yes, we are taking every precaution on top of our normal safety measures, but the child and youth friendly environment we are known for remains. We are very well prepared and that is thanks to donors like you. The fundraising in previous years has made CHEO able to respond to this emergency situation with all the tools needed to keep children and families safe. I am grateful for each contribution, please know that every dollar you entrust to CHEO is used to its fullest capability. We are hoping that those able to do so will help us once again with a donation to support our most urgent needs. The needs may change from year to year, but by allowing us to direct funding to urgent needs in pediatric healthcare you are giving CHEO the flexibility to provide the best care possible to children and families when, where and how they need it.
By now you know all about physical distancing, this is the most important thing we can do as a community to protect each other. That does not mean the doors to CHEO are closed to you, your family or anyone who needs care. Whether through virtual appointments or in person our goal is to serve and care for our community in ways they expect and deserve.
Did you know that CHEO staff are working more than ever outside the hospital? A network of child and youth focused healthcare providers and organizations are working as a single system to do what is right for children and youth across the region. CHEO staff are working with our community partners to test kids and families for COVID-19, visiting shelters and group homes, setting up an isolation centre for COVID-19 for youth who have nowhere else to socially isolate, developing home-based respite options for families with medically complex children, delivering mental health services for young people in distress, and so much more.
As I reflect on life at CHEO today I see that while everything has changed in appearance, our focus and our devotion to the children, youth and families who need us has not wavered. Health, safety and respect are the pillars of care at CHEO and no matter what is going on in the world, at CHEO the kids come first. We know what we must do, and with the help of donors who can continue to support us, and put the tools in our hands, we will keep doing it. When we look back on these challenging times, we will be able to say that the staff and the community were one team, that we helped each other, that we were stronger together.
With grateful thanks.
Dr. Lindy Samson
Chief of Staff, CHEO
Member of COVID-19 Taskforce at CHEO
P.S. CHEO’s frontline team is working tirelessly to care for children, youth and families. Once again, if you are able and looking for a way to help, please consider making a donation. Your donation will be doubled up to $50,000 thanks to a match gift from a generous donor.