Over the course of the COVID pandemic, CQuIPS members and alumni have stepped up in significant ways to support their colleagues, patients and communities. In this special series, we highlight the work they’ve done towards a more equitable recovery.
It was while responding to a COVID outbreak at St. John’s Rehab that Dr. Amanda Mayo, physiatrist at St. John’s Rehab and CQuIPS Associate Director, realized her team needed to do more to protect their patients. Lower on the priority scale than others for receiving the vaccine, rehab patients both on site and coming in for appointments were at high risk for contracting the virus.
“A lot of our patients have multiple comorbidities and regular home care – they can’t physically isolate from their personal support workers (PSWs) or nurses coming in and out of their home to provide care,” she said. “I had one patient who is an amputee who had ten PSWs visiting her apartment every week. Many patients I talked to were scared.”
Mayo, along with others in the Division of Physiatry, advocated for rehab patients to be moved up the priority list. As a result, vaccines were distributed to patients and staff on site early in 2021. Shortly after, the team began offering vaccines to outpatients as well, up to 12 appointments every Tuesday afternoon to individuals coming in for treatment and their essential caregiver family members.
“We were basically trying to vaccinate anyone who couldn’t vaccinate in the community,” Mayo said. “There are a lot of barriers for this patient population – for many pop-up clinics, you have to stand for long periods of time, and even just booking an appointment could be challenging for someone who doesn’t have internet, or who has poor eyesight, poor finger dexterity or may not use traditional technology. It was an access issue.”
Mayo said she was grateful to be able to help answer one of the biggest questions she was hearing from patients about how and where they could book their vaccines.
“It’s been fantastic because for some patients, the only time they might leave their home is to go to therapy for medical appointments. They were really happy to come to St. John’s because they’re familiar with the site and they have Wheel-Trans transportation booked for the site, so it just made things so much easier.”
Early on in the vaccine rollout, another major barrier for many was that an OHIP card was needed to book an appointment. Jacqueline Follis, graduate of the CQuIPS certificate course, led the establishment of a vaccine clinic through Women’s College Hospital on College St. that specifically addressed this, connecting with community partners to book clients directly in.
“It’s really been about supporting our clients who face barriers to getting their vaccine,” said Follis. “My proudest moment was the Saturday where we saw 722 people come through – thirty percent of those were individuals who were uninsured, marginally housed or underhoused.”
The team has also hosted days for specific priority groups, including for youth 12 and older from French language schools (the site is fully bilingual) and one just for people who are uninsured.
Follis is an advanced practice nurse by training – it was during the pandemic that she was asked to step into the role of leader, first of the hospital’s COVID assessment centre and then the vaccine clinic. Prior to the College St. location opening its doors, Follis helped lead a three-week campaign visiting congregate living sites to vaccinate staff, clients and essential caregivers.
“I’ve been using my CQuIPS quality knowledge, medical background as a nurse and operational experience from the last year to answer the question of how we can better support our clients who face barriers,” she said. “I’m really proud of the opportunity I was given, that I could use my background and skillset to pull everything together. I’m just so grateful.”