DR. SAM SABBAH
Director of Emergency Medicine at UHN
Care, research and education are at the core of University Health Network’s (UHN) guiding philosophy. The network includes Toronto General and Toronto Western hospitals, whose emergency departments care for some of the sickest and most complex patients in the country and have been on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic since day one.
In this Q&A, Dr. Sam Sabbah, medical director of emergency medicine at UHN, reflects on the role philanthropy has played during the pandemic.
Why does UHN need philanthropic support during the pandemic?
Research and innovation don’t stop during a pandemic – if anything, the need increases.
We needed to innovate fast – some of the immediate challenges were dealing with personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages and how to minimize the number of people with a patient while keeping the rest of the department updated on their condition. We had to try different therapeutics to see what works and what doesn’t. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we were able to gather this information about what is working to manage COVID-19 symptoms and use it to benefit patients.
With Toronto’s booming population, we needed more space before COVID-19, and we need it even more now. The physical distancing and isolation requirements are decreasing hospital capacity – we can no longer put people in waiting rooms, and we also need to expand emergency rooms and invest in physical infrastructure.
The pandemic has also opened the door to different models of care that we would not have been able to develop at such short notice without donor support. Now, not every visit is an in-person visit and not every follow-up will be in person, with a shift towards virtual care. Philanthropy will help us continue to innovate these new models of care.
How is the community supporting UHN?
We appreciate that donors continue to support us in so many ways during these uncertain times. We are seeing gifts to frontline staff that we have never seen before – ensuring staff wellness and providing frontline workers with accommodation if they were exposed to patients with COVID-19 and needed to self isolate to protect their families. This is the kind of community support that was extremely appreciated and helpful during the first wave of the pandemic and what could be needed, and helpful, in the second wave.
The pandemic has also shown society the value of essential workers, and health-care workers are part of that group. Driving to work and seeing a sign that says ‘Thank you essential workers’ has helped us feel appreciated. It makes a big difference when times are tough, and it reminds you why you do what you do.
How can donors help as UHN continues to navigate the pandemic?
UHN is uniquely positioned in Canada to advance research education and clinical care in ways very few other hospitals can, and that’s in great part due to the generosity of our donors, who we need now more than ever. The pandemic is challenging Canada and the world in ways that we could never have foreseen. We need new models of care, effective treatments and a vaccine, and without accelerating research, there is no end in sight to the pandemic. So, if you want to be part of the solution to beat COVID-19 and help get us get back to normal, contributing to UHN will be a big help.
How does UHN manage donations?
Every donation, big or small, is handled with the utmost care and respect – people give us their hard-earned money and that comes with huge responsibility. We spend a lot of time ensuring the donations we receive are used to support what the donor has intended.
You can help support UHN through the pandemic at tgwhf.ca/helpnow
Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.