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Teamwork key to COVID-19 Assessment Centre success

Team-work COVID-19 Assessment Centr

From a working public arena covered in ice, to a fully-functioning medical facility in just three-and-a-half days, the COVID-19 Assessment Centre at Brewer Park Arena has now assessed more than 16,000 patients since it opened on March 13—one of many assessment centres that together form Eastern Ontario’s response to COVID-19.

The Ottawa Hospital and CHEO activated staff from a variety of departments to make this assessment centre a reality. It is the latest example of extraordinary teamwork and the ability to quickly meet the urgent and changing needs of the community.

COVID-19 Assessment Centre Ottawa Staff

Many health-care workers and support staff from the region have staffed the COVID-19 Assessment Centre since it opened on March 13. To date, more than 16,000 patients have been diverted from local emergency departments.

“We are sprinting to prepare Eastern Ontario for the effects of COVID-19 and an early step was the creation of the Assessment Centre,” said Dr. Andrew Willmore, Medical Director for the Ottawa Hospital’s Department of Emergency Management and Incident Commander for the Champlain Health Region. “This phase of the response successfully took pressure off all of Ottawa’s emergency departments and is a big part of the effort to reduce local transmission in our community.”

Hospital leaders and health officials conducted a thorough site visit of the Brewer Arena before any equipment was put in place. The goal was to plan details like patient flow and other elements of staff and patient safety.

COVID-19 Assessment Centre site viist

Hospital and health officials conducted a detailed site visit to plan how patients will flow through the space, as well as various elements of staff and patient safety. Note that this picture was taken before physical distancing guidelines were put in place.

“It’s truly amazing what we’ve been able to accomplish here,” said Dr. John Brewer, physician at The Ottawa Hospital. “Everyone from hospital and community doctors and nurses to administrators, IS professionals and environmental service professionals have come together to help and serve our community.”

Constant and open communication between teams has been crucial to make the Assessment Centre run safely, smoothly and efficiently. Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) teams from The Ottawa Hospital and leaders from CHEO lead a ‘morning huddle’ at 8 a.m. each day for all staff at the Assessment Centre.

“The purpose of a huddle is to talk about all things safety,” said Natalie Bruce, Manager of Infection Prevention and Control at The Ottawa Hospital. “It’s a chance for IPAC to impart information about staff safety, such as demonstrating proper donning and doffing of personal protective equipment. It’s also a chance for everyone to discuss how we can improve the way we do things so that we can continue delivering care safely to patients.”

Fast and efficient knowledge transfer through the morning huddle, on-site learning and the debriefing at the end of the day is a big reason why the staff at the Assessment Centre have been able to become so efficient in such a short amount of time.

“With so many new clerks coming in every day, we are running on a peer learning system,” said Courtney Batista, Supervisor of Medical Imaging and head of the clerks at the COVID-19 Assessment Centre. “Everyone is your friend here. The more we work together the more patients we can get through in a day.”

In addition to efficiency, significant focus was organizing the centre to promote a positive experience for patients. Ample signage, a clear process and consistent communication between staff and the public at the centre support The Ottawa Hospital’s vision of providing compassionate care.

While less than 10 percent of visits to the Assessment Centre have been made by children and youth, CHEO committed to be a partner to make it easier for families to get tested in one outing. CHEO is known for its kid-friendly pediatric expertise, a reassurance to children, youth and their families during these stressful times. This approach includes appropriately-sized equipment and weight-based fever management instructions, along with a small toy or prize to recognize the bravery of the youngest patients facing the unpleasant swabbing experience.

It’s all smiles behind those masks for the CHEO team at the COVID-19 Assessment Centre. Dr. Jason Brophy, Debbie Turner and Abby Browne are proud to roll up their sleeves (only figuratively!) to take on their new roles of screening kids and youth for COVID-19.

“Being here to help families during this remarkable time has been very gratifying for all of us at the Assessment Centre—allowing us to apply our pediatric skills and experience to support families in this very unique situation,” said Debbie Turner, a CHEO nurse for 28 years.

“We understand that this is a stressful time for families coming to the centre with young children or their elders,” said Dr. Brewer. “We strive to give each person compassionate service quickly and develop processes behind the scenes that make their time at the Assessment Centre go as smoothly as possible.”  

“The Ottawa Hospital has a well-established commitment to quality and continual improvement,” said John Trickett, a director at The Ottawa Hospital “What you see at the Assessment Centre in terms of teamwork, safety and compassionate care for our patients is a reflection of that commitment.”

Much work happened behind the scenes to make the assessment centre a success.

Jim Makris, Manager of Network Services and Stephen Roos, Manager of Client Services with their teams were among those who worked through the night to help make sure the centre would open quickly.

The City of Ottawa worked hard to paint walls in the staff building in preparation for their arrival and made an accessible entrance into the arena for patients with disabilities. They also strung hundreds of meters of cables so the IS operations teams could deploy the network, computer and printer infrastructures. Once complete, the Assessment Centre was fully connected to Epic, the Health Information System that The Ottawa Hospital launched in June of last year.

“The City of Ottawa will always prioritize the safety and the health of its residents.”

The Epic team under Maryam Vafaei even added a new functionality within Epic specifically for patients who come to the Assessment Centre and enabled all of the new triage, clinical assessment, testing, printing, and full documentation within Epic. CHEO is also using their version of Epic to ensure that pediatric patient assessments and testing results are added to each patient’s electronic health record.

The City of Ottawa has done tremendous work melting the ice inside the arena, arranging for the installation of network cables and preparing the grounds around the arena for the staff and public.

 “The power that was put in by the City of Ottawa to turn an arena and a school that hadn’t been used for two years in to something that is basically an extension of the hospital was unbelievable,” said Trickett

“The City of Ottawa will always prioritize the safety and the health of its residents,” said Dan Brisebois, Director, City Wide Programs, Aquatics and Specialized Services. “We are proud to work with partners to ensure that city facilities can be used, where possible, in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. I would like to extend my sincere thanks to the community for their support, and to our staff for their work in ensuring that we meet the needs of our residents during this difficult time.”


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