#ThankfulThursday Featuring: University of Toronto

May 7, 2020

University of Toronto medical students Yezarni Wynn and Justin Boyle sit among the boxes of personal protective equipment the student-led initiative has collected for health-care workers at local hospitals and long-term care homes. Photo courtesy of Yezarni Wynn.

Every Thursday, we will share a story from a member of our Sinai Health community who has been instrumental in helping our Champions of Care respond to the COVID-19 crisis. Every donor or partner is providing critical support to our front-line staff and hospitals.

University of Toronto steps up to support their partner hospitals in the COVID-19 crisis

This past month, the University of Toronto (U of T) stepped up to support Toronto’s academic hospitals including Sinai Health.

As the pandemic began to hit Canada, U of T’s academic course moved to remote delivery and most on campus research was suspended. Wanting to contribute and support the front-line workers in its affiliated hospitals, U of T decided to secure as much PPE as possible, canvassing all three campuses (St. George, Scarborough and Mississauga) for donations.

Then, staff and students volunteered and developed a central headquarters to collect and sort all the donations from within the University and those from external organizations.

There was a lot of eagerness to help wherever possible,” said Vivek Goel, U of T’s vice-president, research and innovation, and strategic initiatives. “If we have excess supplies anywhere in the city or in the province, we felt we should really be working to get those to front-line workers, so they are protected. They are literally putting their lives on the line; we have to do whatever we can to support them.”

Donations began to roll in as Toronto’s COVID-19 cases were spiking. The need to keep health care workers safe was becoming urgent.

“It became evident that we needed plan for fair and equitable distribution,” says Dr. Gary Newton, CEO, Sinai Health and Chair, Toronto Academic Health Science Network (TAHSN), who worked closely with Vivek Goel to build a framework that would best support front-line workers across all of the University’s affiliated academic hospitals.

“We structured the plan around the World Health Organization’s recommendations, such as minimizing the need for PPE, ensuring the correct use of PPE and coordinating supply chains,” says Dr. Newton.

Although this framework was built for acute care settings, it has now been used across the broader health system and other institutions to ensure consistency and fairness. This incredible partnership, fostered by the University of Toronto’s spirit of philanthropy, allowed Toronto’s academic community to answer the call in the city’s time of need.

"The COVID-19 crisis is truly unprecedented for us all. We’re taking every step to prepare our hospitals and protect our front-line workers. There has already been a tremendous response to our appeal for support. We are so grateful for the generosity of our community during this time,” stressed Dr. Newton.

*The University of Toronto has 12 affiliated academic hospitals, including Sinai Health. This group collectively makes up the Toronto Academic Health Sciences Network (TAHSN).

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