The 2021-2022 fiscal year marked another period of turbulence for the health care sector as successive waves of the COVID-19 pandemic continued to preoccupy our WRH team. However, once again the resiliency of our employees and professional staff excelled as we rose to the challenge through their dedication and teamwork, while glimmers of hope for an emergence from the global pandemic, and better days ahead for our community, shone through.
Once again, the 4,000-plus team at Windsor Regional Hospital proved that not even a global pandemic can prevent us from delivering Outstanding Care, No Exceptions! It was another year of both physical and mental exhaustion for our frontline workers who continued to focus on the fundamental reasons they entered the profession in the first place - our patients.
Some have said before that while as a community we may be “done with COVID,” COVID-19 may not be done with us. It’s incumbent on health care sector leaders to remain vigilant and prepared should the virus make a resurgence over the course of the 2022-23 fiscal year. That’s not meant to signal that a significant wave is coming; however, the community we serve and our employees and professional staff who serve them should expect us to prepare for the worst and always pray for the best but be ready for everything in between.
This message, and this annual report, look at what’s behind us as well as what’s ahead. That’s because while the community and media and public focus throughout this 12-month period from April 2021 to March 2022 was so sharply centered on COVID-19, there were developments that also created excitement for the future of hospital care in Windsor and Essex County. Planning for these developments alongside managing through the pandemic was not an easy endeavor, but a necessary one that puts us in a strong position for the future.
TOGETHER WE STAY STRONG - THE COVID-19 RESPONSE
WRH was again blessed to be able to partner with outstanding local organizations who assisted us in making sure our community was able to protect our community through vaccination. Many thanks to our friends at St. Clair College for the generous use over multiple months of their Sportsplex facility which was a centerpiece of local vaccination efforts. We are also grateful to our tremendous partners at the University of Windsor for their generosity and charity in allowing us to use the downtown Windsor Hall facility for thousands of vaccinations last spring. These locations were then centralized at the vacant former Sears outlet at Devonshire Mall, which provided a spacious and easy-to-access vaccination point for our region while becoming a symbol of hope for our community. We could not have achieved any of this without the strong partnership with the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.
Testing for COVID-19 continued throughout the year at our Ouellette Campus COVID-19 Assessment Centre, with treatment options starting in January of 2022, while a newly conceptualized Paediatric Urgent Medical Assessment (PUMA) Clinic successfully provided a medical assessment to children and relief for the worried parents.
For our patients and their loved ones, we recognize the stress and challenge of ongoing visitor restrictions - difficult measures but necessary ones to protect our patients and staff and reduce the opportunity for COVID-19 outbreaks inside our hospital campuses. This spring, the pandemic had reached a low enough level of activity that we were able to lift many of our visitor restrictions and also welcome back our beloved volunteers who had not been inside the hospital since the pandemic began in early 2020. Just seeing the smiling eyes of these volunteers and the gradual increase in allowable visitors represented the beginning of a return to some comfort and normalcy in our daily hospital routines.
We continue to make progress on our backlog of postponed non-urgent and non-emergency surgeries and procedures. That backlog is now lower than it was prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to the hard work of our administrative teams and staff to complete more procedures as quickly and safely as we can.
PURSUIT OF A NEW STATE-OF-THE-ART HOSPITAL
Amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, we applauded the commitment of our Ontario government in unlocking long-awaited funds to proceed through Stage 2 of planning for the development of a new state-of-the-art acute care hospital. This phase covers the development of a ‘Functional Program’ that will determine how the new hospital will operate and includes a look at staffing, space, and equipment requirements, and examine the flow of patients, staff, and materials throughout the building. There was significant work through an online engagement site, community town halls and planning tables over the course of the past fiscal year as we now had the funds to delve into the necessary work required to bring this vital project to fruition. After many years of delays and false starts, we are now driving forward and looking ahead to further developments in this plan to modernize local hospital infrastructure for decades to come.
There were further developments in the areas of research, which will serve us well in the present as well as possibilities for future adjacency to the new hospital, with WRH exploring a potential health research park with the University of Windsor. It’s yet another example of community collaboration and exciting prospects that will help our region attract the best and brightest minds in health care.
WHAT’S IN STORE FOR 2022-2023
Ensuring we are positioned to protect the public from any resurgence of the COVID-19 virus and its many variant forms remains foremost in our minds, as well as continued work to reduce the backlog of postponed elective surgeries - issues that are not unique to Windsor-Essex. Complicating the surgery backlog is a shortage of anesthesiologists - again, not unique to Windsor-Essex, but putting us in competition for resources with hospital peers nonetheless. At the time of this writing, we have not returned to pre-COVID 100% surgical capacity.
On the positive side, we have three local Members of the Provincial Parliament elected to the Ontario legislature in the June 2 vote that followed the 2021-22 fiscal year. We congratulate Andrew Dowie (Windsor-Tecumseh), Lisa Gretzky (Windsor West), Anthony Leardi (Essex), and Trevor Jones (Chatham-Kent-Leamington) and look forward to working with each of them constructively in the months ahead and continuing through the government’s new four-year mandate. Health care is always complex and challenging to address through policy. WRH is pleased and well-positioned to be a voice to advocate for our local needs while working with these local provincial politicians who we know will champion our community at every opportunity.
Above all else, we are cautiously optimistic that 2022-2023 will mark more of a return to familiar pre-COVID realities. Whatever occurs, rest assured that the WRH team is engaged and closely monitoring the continued prevalence of COVID-19 and ready to adapt as necessary, while remaining hopeful that the worst of the fear, anxiety, and patient illness associated with COVID-19 is behind us.
Most of all, thank you to the amazing WRH team of frontline and behind-the-scenes professionals who have performed so wonderfully in some of the most challenging circumstances of the modern health care era.
1995 Lens Avenue, Windsor, ON N8W 1L9
1030 Ouellette Avenue, Windsor, ON N9A 1E1