When this pandemic began more than fourteen months ago, the common phrase being used was “we are all in this together”. Admittedly as we saw, the realities of this slogan were tested at times in society as people experienced a roller-coaster of challenges and emotions. However, one place that has been a consistent source of reliability and inspiration for communities in Northwestern Ontario has been Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre and all of the amazing people who make it what it is.
This past month, that spirit of being in this together was on full display as our Hospital became the first to accept seriously ill patients from Winnipeg. The story was featured prominently in the national media with CEO Rhonda Crocker Ellacott appearing as our spokesperson. As you know, our historic collaborative relationship with Manitoba goes both ways depending on what’s happening. Sometimes they help us. Sometimes we help them as we are at the moment as they struggle with the highest per capita case rates in all of North America. We will always be there for our neighbours – and we will be there without having any impact on the service we provide our communities as case numbers in our region continue to decline while vaccinations increase.
On the operations side, I am pleased to report that we are projecting a year-end. While the Hospital incurred significant financial costs to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Health has provided hospitals in the province with both pandemic funding and working capital relief funding to address these pressures. Looking ahead, I am encouraged and excited by the work being done on the TBRHSC Strategic Plan 2026. As discussions begin to shift to recovery in our province, we know health care challenges won’t disappear and we need to be ready for continuing our momentum post-pandemic. Our Strategic Planning Advisory Committee has identified six key priorities areas to pursue: Patient and Family Centred Care; Comprehensive Health Human Resource and Human Resource Strategies; Anti-racism, diversity, inclusion, health care equity for all patients and staff; Technology infrastructure and digital; Integrated and aligned strategy for the Research Institute with the Hospital, and Advocacy strategy, at local, regional, and provincial levels.
In the beginning of COVID-19 ravaging our region fourteen months ago, you remember front-line workers were met with applause as heroes – some came home to hear everyone on their front steps banging pots and cheering as a sign of appreciation. As the pandemic dragged on, much of that has faded away in volume as people struggled with their own issues. However, in my conversations with people in the community, it is clear that while their volume has been reduced, their trust and appreciation for our staff has never been greater.
And, while we are not in the clear just yet, the clear signs of optimism in the air are encouraging and should be appreciated and welcomed. We have been through a great deal. We have suffered inexplicable losses. However, while I can’t speak for other parts of the country, I feel confident in saying that through it all, our staff and the people in our communities have been there for one another. We have all been in this together and that is a testament to all of you.
As summer approaches, I encourage everyone to get outside and enjoy the warmer weather. Please continue to follow directives on social distancing and masks. Take care of each other.