Fall 2021 Update from VHA’s President and CEO, Dr. Kathryn Nichol
The beginning of September marked 6 months in my new role as President and CEO of VHA Home HealthCare (VHA) and I wanted to take this opportunity to provide a brief update to our valued clients and families. There have been many proud and challenging moments during these past months, many of which have involved our ongoing response to COVID-19. VHA has been participating in mass vaccination efforts as well as actively responding to the impact of the pandemic while also supporting recovery planning and preparedness across the sector. In recent weeks, there has been a great deal of talk and media coverage regarding mandatory vaccination of health care workers. On September 3rd, together with 22 other home care organizations in Ontario, VHA announced that we would be making vaccination mandatory for all staff and service providers this fall. This was a very proud moment for me as a health care leader. I believe this is a positive move for many reasons:
- For our clients and their families, it will further reduce the chance of transmission of infection – particularly for those who are most vulnerable.
- For our staff, service providers, students and volunteers, research has shown that vaccines prevent serious illness and hospitalization.
- For the health sector, this is a powerful message that the home care sector is united in the desire to provide high quality and safe care. And due to the fragile state of our depleted health care workforce, the only way to do this and ensure we can continue to provide safe and reliable home care is to do it together. Acting as a collective minimizes our risk of losing people to other organizations and hopefully minimizes the risk of people leaving the health sector completely. We can’t afford to lose a single health worker from our team.
- For health consumers and for the public, taking a consistent approach builds public confidence in our health care system and emphasizes – more than ever – that home is the safest place to receive care right now.
On September 7th, in accordance with Directive #6 from the Ontario Ministry of Health, VHA implemented the first phase of this move towards mandatory vaccination. This involves mandatory reporting of vaccine status and mandatory education and rapid antigen testing two times each week for any unvaccinated staff and service providers. We have been working closely with our team members across the organization to support everyone through this process. VHA is full of amazing staff and service providers who are caring and committed and have been working so hard to help keep everyone safe at home. Especially with the current shortage of health care workers across the sector, our aim is to retain all of our valued team members as we work towards a fully vaccinated team.
VHA is holding a client and family town hall on October 5th to provide more information and answer questions about vaccination and our ongoing response to the pandemic. You can find more information about the town hall in this newsletter and we hope you are able to attend. We will be answering questions submitted in advance and will be recording the town hall to share in next month’s issue of VOICE.
In addition to pandemic priorities, I am also currently focusing on strategy and planning for the future. VHA is in a great position to be a strong voice for the future of home care – in particular, how safe it has proven to be, how great home care is the best solution for overcrowded emergency departments and lengthy long term care waitlists, and how home care can be a key connector and partner in integrated care.
I often have the opportunity to hear from clients and their families, and these conversations are so helpful as we consider where we should be focusing our efforts going forward and in making sure we are thinking about what matters most. One family I have learned a great deal from has been experiencing first-hand the devastating impact that a depleted healthcare workforce can have. Tonya Martin’s son Cayden, a client of VHA’s, requires a nurse to accompany him to school due to his complex medical needs. Due to the recent shortage of nurses across the health sector, no nurses are currently available to care for Cayden at school. You can read more about Tonya and Cayden’s story on CBC’s website. I always find it valuable to hear from clients and families. Please feel free to reach out to me if you have comments, concerns, questions and/or ideas for VHA.
Another caregiver I benefit from hearing from is Amr Elimam, Co-chair of VHA’s Client and Carer Advisory Council. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Amr as part of the outreach I am doing as a new CEO. You can see a photo of us in the park where we chatted above. I look forward to sharing more about our conversation with you soon. For now, as the end of September draws near, for those of you with school-aged children or connections to the school system, I hope the start of the school year has been positive so far. And I wish everyone a happy and very safe, fall season.