Posted: August 25, 2021

A year of courage and partnerships: these experiences and accomplishments have shaped our past year and built resiliency and flexibility, strengthened partnerships and collaboration across the Waterloo Region community, and have forever changed the ways that we work separately, and together. While a look back at what has been accomplished during a particularly challenging time, we will use what we have learned in looking forward, and planning for the future of health care in Waterloo Region, together.

While COVID-19 has changed realities around the globe for everyone, those on the front lines of health care have remained at the centre of the public health crisis, managing care and support through a constant state of change. Over the last 19 months, staff at all Waterloo Region hospitals partnered to continually shift, pivot, adjust and re-adjust to accommodate new information, needs, practices and priorities, and support regional COVID-19 efforts, collaboratively.

In 2020/2021, these efforts continued in waves two and three, enhanced by earlier learnings and the changing landscape from prevention, to treatment, vaccination and care.

Img 20200714 Covid Lab Kris Inserting Tube Instrument Web

Waterloo Region hospitals support COVID-19 Testing

All three local hospitals played a pivotal role in preventing the spread of COVID-19 across Waterloo Region by facilitating testing, with the joint Grand River and St Mary’s lab processing results.

In September 2020, the joint lab implemented new technology that increased the number of COVID-19 tests processed, twentyfold; from 66 to 1500 swabs per day. This change also meant that most of the Region’s COVID tests, submitted by local test facilities and hospitals are processed locally, and sooner, reducing the amount of time it takes to get a result.

In June 2020, Grand River Hospital opened the Region’s only drive-thru COVID-19 test site, to support testing already happening at Cambridge Memorial and St. Mary’s General hospitals. The drive-thru has since administered more than 160,000 swabs, or 30% of tests completed in Waterloo Region.

“All of these efforts have helped to share the workload with a single goal of reducing the spread of COVID-19 in our community,” explains Grand River Hospital’s COVID test site lead Tal Kleiman. “Health care organizations are working together across the Region to ensure residents can be tested and have their results sooner, so that they have the information they need to protect others and reduce the spread. We are extremely proud to play our role in this important part of our COVID response.”

Prone team prepping to move patient

Enhancing partnerships and sharing resources in the fight against COVID-19

Throughout the pandemic, Ontario hospitals have been challenged to reimagine hospital space to accommodate increasing volumes of patients with acute, and isolation needs. Locally, this required a collaborative approach to focus as much hospital space as possible on the care of critically ill patients. Grand River Hospital provided space at its Freeport Campus to accept lower acuity patients from Waterloo Region hospitals, to enable area hospitals to use available space and resources to care for patients with critical needs. This increased capacity available locally became especially important as many out-of-region hospitals began to experience extreme capacity pressures, and transfer their patients to Waterloo Region hospitals for care.

Wave three also brought extreme pressures to front-line health care staff across Ontario. Grand River Hospital organized the redeployment of staff and physicians to hospitals outside of Waterloo region, to provide relief for those hardest hit by waves two and three of the pandemic.

“I want to extend my profound gratitude on behalf of everyone at Osler for accepting our most ill patients in transfer, and for deploying physicians to shore up our resources,” says Dr. Frank Martino, Chief of Staff at William Osler Health System. “It means the world to us and even more to the families and patients who are battling for their lives. The load sharing of the burden during this wave of the pandemic has provided enormous relief to our teams. The addition of the skilled physicians working side by side with our staff has made a tremendous difference, helping to lighten the load that threatens to exceed our capacity. Thank you for demonstrating what generosity and compassion look like.”

Img 20201221 Wrp Covidvaccine Setup 4
Waterloo Region's first shipment of the Pfizer-Biotech vaccine arrived onsite at Grand River Hospital on December 21, 2020.

COVID-19 – Hope, Vaccinations and Teamwork

In late December 2020, Grand River Hospital opened the Region’s first vaccination site with support from volunteers and staff from Cambridge Memorial and St. Mary’s General hospitals to protect those most vulnerable. This clinic served the province’s priority 1 groups (health care workers, Indigenous people, and the elderly), and delivered more than 25,000 doses of vaccine. In March, the clinic moved the team to a larger location in Cambridge to continue work to support the Region’s vaccine strategy. To date, the Pinebush Clinic has provided more than 210,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to our community.

“I’m incredibly proud to work with the Region of Waterloo as part of our COVID-19 response,” says vaccine clinic manager and Grand River Hospital manager, Lisa Anstey. “This is definitely the highlight of my career and I want to thank the Region and each and every member of the team who has stepped up to support our community when it was needed the most. From our humble beginnings in the basement of the Kaufman Building, to becoming the biggest vaccine clinic in the region, we have evolved to not only administer vaccine but also hope, kindness and healing.”

Img 20210628 Covid Vaccine Clinic Grhneedle

COVID-19 Research and Innovation

Grand River also joined St Mary’s and many other Ontario hospitals in COVID-19 research and academic partnerships that will continue to enhance knowledge and learnings of COVID-19 treatments, including the use of antibodies, and potential therapies.

“None of this work would be possible without the phenomenal team we have at Grand River Hospital, staff and leadership from Cambridge Memorial and St. Mary’s General hospitals, and the community joining together,” says Ron Gagnon, Grand River Hospital President and CEO. “COVID has really required us all to think differently about the ways that we work together to support and protect our community and those across the province. Our community has stepped up to support us in so many ways, from funding supplies and equipment, to providing meals and coffee for staff. I am immensely proud to work with this team, in this community and acknowledge all that we have accomplished together.”

For more information, please contact:

Cheryl Evans, Manager, Communications and Engagement

Grand River Hospital

Cell: 226-749-0689

Grand River Hospital (GRH) is one of Ontario’s largest community hospitals and provides innovative, quality care to more than 700,000 residents of Waterloo Region and Guelph Wellington.