Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

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St. Joseph's Care Group

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Changing how we provide care to keep everyone safe

Date: 2020-10-20

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to adapt and to change how everyday tasks are accomplished - we now live in a world where preventing the spread of illness has been woven into everything we do. At St. Joseph’s Care Group (SJCG) it has been no different. We’ve been making changes to care environments to ensure safety, and exploring new ways to continue delivering high quality care to our clients in a modified way.

This week (October 19-23, 2020) is National Infection Control Week - a perfect time to share with you some of the preventative measures we have taken to keep our clients and staff safe and well.

At the outset of the pandemic in March, SJCG’s Pandemic Plan was activated, part of which involved the establishment of an Incident Management System (IMS) Steering Committee. This Committee is accountable for the overall COVID-19 response at all SJCG sites. “The IMS Steering Committee helps to guide our corporate COVID-19 response, and also considers the unique complexities of being a multi-site/multi-sector organization,” explains Tracy Buckler, President & CEO, SJCG.

Simple Steps to Stay Safe

The health and wellbeing of clients and staff is at the heart of every decision we make, and keeping COVID-19 out of our care environments is the highest priority. Within one week of the pandemic being declared, COVID-19 screening was implemented at each site to stop people exhibiting symptoms of and/or have an exposure risk to the virus from entering our buildings. Leaning on technology, an online screening tool was quickly launched to help expedite screening and support contact tracing. On entry, screening staff provide information and support to help everyone follow the required site precautions including the use of hand sanitizer, wearing masks, and physical distancing.

To ensure the safety of clients and staff, some of our outpatient services that could pause without posing a health risk to our clients were suspended. Undeterred by these restrictions, our program staff found ways to continue providing services by using technology. Clients have been grateful that their appointments could proceed over the phone, or through OTN (Ontario Telemedicine Network) which uses two-way secure videoconferencing. Although many in-person services have resumed, we have learned how to provide services effectively in alternate ways.

One of the most difficult directives to implement was closing our doors to family and visitors at the start of the pandemic. “Knowing how important family and friend interaction is for the well-being of our clients, we needed to respond quickly,” says Buckler. Again, technology played a significant role. “Through the use of portable technology (tablets), we’ve provided a way for this critical connection with loved ones to occur through applications like FaceTime.”

SJCG has since been able to resume in-person visits with restrictions; however, changes to COVID-19 restrictions can happen quickly. Visitors are encouraged to visit our website for the most up-to-date information.

The way to keep COVID-19 cases low in our community is low-tech and something we can all do. “Simple acts like cleaning your hands regularly, wearing a mask, and physical distancing of at least two metres will help stop the spread of illness. As well, getting your flu shot will help to prevent the spread of influenza,” says Shelley McAllister, Director of Collaborative Practice and Chief Nursing Executive, SJCG. “By protecting ourselves, we can lessen the potential impact of influenza on the healthcare system and improve capacity for other illnesses and emergencies,” added McAllister.

COVID-19 has significantly impacted each and every one of us, and yet in the face of adversity the spirit of kindness and appreciation for healthcare workers shines through. “We are so grateful for the countless positive messages of support from individuals, families and local businesses. I can’t tell you how appreciated these words and actions are by all of us at SJCG, as we work diligently to keep people safe during these uncertain times,” concludes Buckler.


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