Today, March 11, marks the two-year anniversary since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, as well as two years since the first COVID-19 case in Canada. St Joseph’s Healthcare President, Melissa Farrell reflected on the milestone in a message to the hospital staff.
Today marks two years of healthcare workers living through rapid-fire, exhausting change. Learning and adjusting. Isolation and frustration. It is overcoming and moving forward.
While we focus on COVID in healthcare, we are part of a larger world facing great uncertainty – from the emergency orders required to shut down protest convoys in multiple Ontario cities to a global focus on the devastating and growing war in Ukraine.
Amidst this, we enter a new narrative of “learning to live with COVID.” While we are pleased to see Hamilton’s COVID-19 cases decline, it’s important to acknowledge that not all parts of Ontario – and not all Ontarians – are experiencing the pandemic ebb in the same way. Cases are peaking in some parts of the province, and there are many vulnerable groups feeling extremely anxious about the lifting of public health restrictions, including those who are immunocompromised or have underlying health conditions.
There continue to be a lot of questions and unknowns, but we have truly achieved so much together over the last two years. We were there for our community – and for one another – when it mattered most.
The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the vulnerabilities of our healthcare system. Addressing these vulnerabilities will help inform a better way forward for our patients, our colleagues, and our country.
For example, we have a renewed focus on equity-based principles that will encourage targeted, meaningful, co-designed support for groups that were disproportionally impacted by COVID. I think particularly of the aged, the homeless, and populations disadvantaged by the social determinants of health. Additionally, we have learned and acted on the critical need to develop customized mental health and wellness supports for our healthcare workers, and I hope this is a solid step forward to help our workforce recover. Finally, the pandemic has exacerbated long-standing issues within the healthcare workforce. The government seems to better appreciate what we’ve known all along – that stability in human health resources is critical.