Tapping into the good feeling of giving back

COVID-19 is inspiring individuals, groups, and businesses to support The Ottawa Hospital and share their message of giving.

At a time when people are staying home to slow the spread of COVID-19, they are looking for ways to do some good in the midst of a global pandemic—to feel like they are lending a helping hand. For some, philanthropy makes them feel like they are being proactive, when almost everything else seems uncertain or out of their control.

Individuals, groups, and businesses are all stepping forward to help our front-line heroes. They are donating money, equipment, time, and food—after all, we’re in this together. Not only are they generously supporting The Ottawa Hospital, but they also hope to inspire others to experience that same good feeling of giving.

“Anything we can do to help our hospital, I want to be a part of it.” George Hanna, Gabriel Pizza

Gavin Murphy
Activist donor sends a message to the community
Phil Downey
Deep roots and always ready to give
Michelle Gleeson
Compassionate care for her father inspires her to give
Jason Zhang
Big impact from the Ottawa Chinese Community

“In times of emergency and stress, the number one priority is to help with those people who are on the frontlines in the midst of this crisis, and The Ottawa Hospital is number one.” – Phil Downey

George Hanna
Gabriel Pizza wants to be a part of giving back
Hélène Chevalier
My role and my responsibility to give
Ryan Carey
Tunes for TOH

“For whoever put a blanket on him when he was cold, for whoever gave him a sip of water, to whoever wheeled him to testing, that’s why I wanted to make a donation.” – Michelle Gleeson

The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened community awareness of the vital role played by front-line healthcare workers. For local donor Gavin Murphy, it’s never been more apparent. “I shudder to think where we would be without them today. The healthcare system has gone into uncharted territory as a result of COVID-19 and the need for support has never been greater.”

Gavin is a self-described activist donor. He led by example last year and donated $500,000 to The Ottawa Hospital. He will not waver from his commitment to maintain a publicly funded world-class healthcare system in our city. Gavin will not settle for anything less and he doesn’t think anyone else in our community should either. But that goal comes at a cost that cannot be borne entirely by government. His message is emphatic: Every little bit counts. “Even if you can only donate a few dollars and there’s a million people in Ottawa—that will make a tremendous difference. That’s the reality and that’s what we have to address. We cannot rely solely on the government, which has other validly competing interests to consider, in order to sustain our hospital.”

If he needs to be the messenger to encourage citizens to support The Ottawa Hospital then Gavin will gladly take on this role. “Continuing The Ottawa Hospital’s leadership role in publicly-funded healthcare and research is only possible when those who are in the position to donate actually make those donations be they small or great.”

Jason Zhang remembers watching the COVID-19 story unfold in China, the country where he was born. He and his friends acted to show their support immediately. When COVID-19 made its way to Ottawa, where he now calls home, he knew he had to act. “This is our hospital. This is our home,” says Jason.

Jason, a Founder and Editor-in-Chief of a Chinese community newspaper -Health Times -published in Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, decided to bring together his network to raise $60,000 for the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, which is used in part to purchase necessary equipment like ventilators and PPE. Never did Jason expect the outpouring of support he’s seen. “We’re already over $100,000!”

In fact, Jason and the Chinese community in Ottawa, including 43 associations, were astounded when they reached their initial goal after only four days of fundraising. They’re just thrilled to be able to give back and make sure The Ottawa Hospital has the right equipment required to care for patients during the pandemic.

When the final number was tallied, Jason and his friends doubled their initial goal, raising over $123,000.

These are difficult times for families, especially those who can’t connect with their elderly parents. That’s exactly what Michelle Gleeson faced. Her father lives in a nearby retirement home but she’s unable to visit because of COVID-19 restrictions. Instead, they talk by phone every day.

On April 2, Michelle received a call that her father, who is 91 years old and lives with Parkinson’s disease, had fallen ill and needed to go to the Emergency Department at the Civic Campus of The Ottawa Hospital. The news rocked her because she knew she couldn’t be by her father’s side. She soon learned he was in good hands.

“I spoke with the nurse, who put me right through to his doctor, Alena Spacek. The integration of everything at the hospital was phenomenal because they could see all of his previous medical visits. I couldn’t be there to explain everything but all his medical information was at the doctors fingertips,” explains Michelle.

Beyond that, while Michelle couldn’t see the compassionate care he was receiving, she could hear the level of care through the reassuring voice of Dr. Spacek. She called twice to speak with Michelle about her father, letting her know he would be okay, and when he could be released to go home.

She was so grateful and relieved, she needed to say thank you—and that’s when she decided to make a donation to The Ottawa Hospital. “For whoever put a blanket on him when he was cold, for whoever gave him a sip of water, to whoever wheeled him to testing, that’s why I wanted to make a donation,” says Michelle.

While Michelle couldn’t be at the hospital during this challenging time because of visitor restrictions, the care team left her knowing her father was in good hands. “When it all happened, I said a prayer that my dad would be in the hands of kind and caring staff. I cried waiting to hear news. Then, when I spoke to the nurse, I could hear the kindness through the phone. He was in the right spot and he was getting the right care. These are caring, loving people.”

Phil Downey’s family has deep ties to The Ottawa Hospital dating back to his mother, a registered nurse who trained at the Civic Hospital in the early ‘40s. A longtime, generous supporter of The Ottawa Hospital, Phil is always proud to give back—and especially now. “If you have a giving heart, it’s always there. In times of emergency and stress, the number one priority is to help with those people who are on the frontlines in the midst of this crisis, and The Ottawa Hospital is number one,” says Phil

Phil has made a generous commitment to raise $250,000 to The Ottawa Hospital’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund. He acknowledges these are difficult times for many families, but he believes there is a way for everyone to help our front-line workers.

“If you take a few minutes to think about a little thing you can do to help other people, it makes you feel so good inside. At the end of the day, a donation to The Ottawa Hospital not only helps the front-line workers and the team at the hospital, it really helps yourself because it gives you a little relief of the stress you’re under,” acknowledges Phil.

George Hanna’s wife, Malake Hanna, had three high-risk pregnancies dating back to 2004, and she received her care at The Ottawa Hospital. After that experience, George remembers going back to the office and telling his staff: “whatever we can do to help our hospital, I want to be a part of it.” That’s how Gabriel Pizza began giving back and saying thank you.

That generous support continues to this day, supporting the front-line workers during COVID-19. “It’s an honour and a pleasure to give back. No matter how many pizzas we send, no matter what we do—it’s not enough to thank them for what they’re enduring right now and what they’re dealing with,” says George.

The President and COO of Gabriel Pizza and his team have delivered pizzas to the COVID-19 Assessment Centre; they’ve made donations to the Emergency Departments at both the Civic and General campuses. It’s the Gabriel Pizza way of saying thank you. “The whole purpose is to send some pizzas to thank them and put some smiles on their faces. We’re all in this together and whatever we can do to help—sending pizza is just a small way of saying thanks,” says George.
After a brief pause, George reiterates, “Anything we can do to help our hospital, I want to be a part of it.”

Like many confined to their homes these days, there’s a feeling of frustration. That’s exactly what has gone through the mind of Hélène Chevalier, even though she realizes staying home is for the best.

However, Hélène concluded that she had her own role to play beyond just staying home. “I feel that it is my role and my responsibility to contribute to The Ottawa Hospital COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, and in so doing, to be part of the solution,” says Hélène.

Hélène truly admires the work she sees and hears about from our hospital. “The employees of The Ottawa Hospital show care, dedication, and professionalism to save other people’s lives, and to find a long-term solution to this pandemic” says Hélène.

She goes on to say, “While doing so, they risk their own lives, they worry about their loved ones, and yet, they keep going. It is for them that I contribute to the Emergency Fund.”

Music has always been a part of Ryan Carey’s life—he loves strumming on his guitar. He’s been doing more of that these days, as he’s staying home like so many others.
Ryan works at The Ottawa Hospital in I.T. as a part of the Mobile Depot. Recently, he started posting videos on social media of some of the songs he’s been playing at home. The next thing he knew, he was planning a Facebook Live event. “It all came together quickly. I started getting requests for songs on social media. I would record and then post them. Then someone suggested a live show and that’s how this fundraiser took off.”

It was when he and his wife, Teri Wellon, a front-line healthcare worker in our community, were planning it out, that they realized there was an opportunity to raise money at the same time. “The Ottawa Hospital was of course the first place that popped into my head,” says Ryan.

On Saturday, April 25, Ryan went live with people tuning in from B.C. to Newfoundland and Labrador. With a large contingent of family and friends from his home province of Newfoundland tuning in, you could say it was a COVID-19 style kitchen party.

At the peak of the show, 140 people were watching Ryan play and he was watching the donations come in. “It just blew me away. I expected to raise a few dollars, but I never expected it to get as high as it did. I raised $1,105 and I donated $95 separately to make it an even $1,200,” says Ryan.

When he thinks about the amount he raised and supporting his fellow colleagues at The Ottawa Hospital, Ryan says it left him with a good feeling. “It feels very rewarding. It feels great to help the place where I work and where I see all the good happening.”

Feel the good of giving by making a donation today to the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund.

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Nanji family donates $100,000 matching gift to help combat COVID-19.
Nanji family donates $100,000 matching gift to help combat COVID-19
Celebrating a “re-birthday” each year since having a cancerous brain tumour removed
Nine years ago, The Ottawa Hospital saved Kimberly Mountain’s life after the discovery of cancerous brain tumour. Today, she’s confident if the cancer comes back, The Ottawa Hospital will be ready to save her again.

Nanji family donates $100,000 matching gift to help combat COVID-19

Their generous matching gift is directed to the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund and will support The Ottawa Hospital’s front-line and research efforts to fight back against the virus.

Times of crisis can bring out the best in people, motivating them to step forward and help turn things around for their community. As the COVID-19 crisis hit communities across the country, donors at all levels began to mobilize. The Nanji family decided they needed to act, donating a matching gift of $100,000 in support of the front-line efforts at The Ottawa Hospital to combat COVID-19.

Gulshan and Pyarli Nanji
Gulshan and Pyarli Nanji

The commitment of healthcare workers is what inspired them to give. “Everyone going to work in a hospital today is somebody’s loved one. There has been no other health crisis where we as Canadians have depended so much on the generosity and personal sacrifices of our healthcare workers,” says Mr. Nanji.

Their generous matching gift is directed to the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund and will support The Ottawa Hospital’s front-line and research efforts to fight back against the virus. By positioning the gift as a matching opportunity, they hope to inspire others to give whatever amount they can, even though these are challenging times for everyone. “No amount is too small…This crisis is teaching us how to be a community again,” says Mr. Nanji.

What’s unique about the Nanji family’s gift is that these long-time residents of Toronto made the decision early on to extend their impact beyond their immediate community. When they gave to The Ottawa Hospital they also gave to 16 other Canadian hospitals — a display of Canadian unity at its best.

 “As a family that has benefited so much from Canada over our lifetimes it was important to us to step up when Canada needed us,” says Mr. Nanji. “We have a history of giving to causes close to us, but COVID-19 affects all Canadians and as such, we wanted to do what we could to help all of Canada. My family and I are so proud to help where we can.”

For hospital President and CEO, Dr. Jack Kitts, this gift is a reminder of the power of collective generosity. “The response from donors to the COVID-19 pandemic was immediate. We’ve heard from supporters, like the Nanjis, from across the country who want to be part of the solution and rally others to join with them. It’s been very inspiring,” says Dr. Kitts.

While The Ottawa Hospital is extremely grateful for this gift, the Nanji family expressed equal gratitude in return. “To the healthcare workers, we are indebted to you beyond words,” says Mrs. Nanji. “We are aware that you have your families to look after, yet you come and look after us and ours.”

To join the Nanji family in supporting The Ottawa Hospital’s efforts to combat COVID-19, and to take advantage of this matching opportunity, please consider a donation today.

Double your donation today, up to $250,000, and
support the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund.

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Tapping into the good feeling of giving during COVID-19
COVID-19 is inspiring individuals, groups, and businesses to support The Ottawa Hospital and share their message of giving.
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Innovative COVID-19 research projects fast tracked thanks to donor support

Thanks to generous community support, $575,000 has been allocated to fund 14 projects so far through The Ottawa Hospital Foundation’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund.

Solutions to some of our greatest healthcare challenges in the midst of the ever-changing COVID-19 pandemic, won’t come from one idea or one person. Innovation will come from a community of researchers, and academics, and also from front-line healthcare workers, support staff, volunteers and patients. To capture ideas for COVID-19 research and patient care innovations, The Ottawa Hospital responded quickly after the pandemic hit and launched the Ideas Hub, and it’s open to anyone at the hospital who has an idea to contribute— big or small. It is in large part thanks to donor support that we can accelerate the implementation of some of these creative ideas across our hospital.

Once ideas are submitted, within days they are triaged to expert teams assigned to evaluate the feasibility and potential impact of each. Coupled with the overwhelming support of our community, many will receive funding, and in turn, spark innovation at our hospital to help keep staff and patients safe as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are thrilled to announce that many of the ideas submitted are already underway at our hospital. Below are just a few of the exciting initiatives right here in Ottawa that will be receiving funding thanks to donor support of the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund.

Dr. William Stanford
Dr. William Stanford


Using lab-grown human tissues to identify possible treatments

Dr. William Stanford and his colleagues are using human tissue models to understand why COVID-19 makes some patients severely ill. They also hope to identify and test new drugs that can reduce the severe lung damage that typically kills people with COVID-19. They will rapidly test two cellular pathways involved in causing this lung damage. They will then rapidly screen for drugs that have already been approved by Health Canada and the FDA that are able to block these pathways, and potentially reduce disease severity and death. Their research may also reveal biomarkers that can identify which patients with COVID-19 are most likely to require intensive care.

Stopping COVID-19 with behavioral science and artificial intelligence

Dr. Justin Presseau and colleagues plan to use state-of-the-art behavioural science and artificial intelligence to develop an app that can help people reduce how much they touch their eyes, nose and mouth. This T-shaped area of the face known as the T-zone is the main way that the COVID-19 virus gets into the body. Reducing T-zone touching could reduce the transmission of COVID-19, as well as transmission of other infections that pass through the nose and mouth. Most people touch their T-zone 15-20 times per hour, often without realizing it.

The app would help people become aware of this behavior and walk them through possible techniques and training to reduce T-zone touching. This project will involve international experts in machine learning and computer vision, health psychology and behaviour change, and human-centred design and infection control.

Justin Presseau
Dr. Justin Presseau


Dr. Smita Pakhale
Dr. Smita Pakhale

Understanding the challenge of COVID-19 for Ottawa’s most vulnerable people

Dr. Smita Pakhale and her colleagues will harness the trust and engagement they have built with Ottawa’s most marginalized communities over the last 10 years through community-based participatory action research to examine how COVID-19 has impacted these individuals. Marginalized people who are low-income, homeless, and at-risk of homelessness face numerous social and health inequities that are exacerbated by crises like the COVID-19 pandemic. These individuals face unique barriers when accessing health services and may be last in line for support. Data co-collected and co-analyzed with people of lived experience could lead to the development of better policies and programs to help vulnerable populations during COVID-19 and future crises.

Mobile reporting of adverse events from a pandemic COVID-19 vaccine

Dr. Kumanan Wilson and his colleagues will harness their electronic vaccine-tracking platform CANImmunize to let Canadians report potential adverse events from a COVID-19 vaccine through their mobile device. This will be crucial in ensuring both the safety of a COVID-19 vaccine and enhancing public trust in the vaccine.

The team has already built and tested a proof-of-concept pilot app in partnership with the Canadian Vaccine Safety Network for monitoring adverse events from the seasonal influenza vaccine. This reporting function will be activated for testing during the fall flu season for use by participating employees at The Ottawa Hospital, in preparation for a probable COVID-19 vaccine in 2021.

Dr. Kumanan Wilson
Dr. Kumanan Wilson
Dr. Dean Fergusson
Dr. Dean Fergusson

Testing plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients as a possible treatment

Drs. Alan Tinmouth and Dean Fergusson are contributing to the global effort to determine if plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 (called convalescent plasma) could be an effective treatment for actively infected patients. When someone becomes infected with COVID-19, their immune system develops antibodies against the virus. After they have recovered, these antibodies remain present in their plasma to shield them from possible future infection.

In theory, these antibodies could be transfused into people with an active COVID-19 infection, to help them fight off the virus. The trial will be conducted by the Canadian Transfusion Research Network in collaboration with Canadian Blood Services and Hema-Québec who will collect and test convalescent plasma in adults (CONCOR-1 study) and children (CONCOR-Kids study).

Predicting COVID-19 in populations

Dr. Doug Manuel and his colleagues in partnership with Ottawa Public Health have created an interactive website (613covid.ca) that predicts various scenarios around the number of hospitalizations and deaths in Ottawa due to COVID-19. The methods they are developing will help advance COVID-19 projections worldwide in addition to helping with local planning. They plan to refine their methods and develop better approaches to predict the effects of different levels of physical distancing. These projections will be invaluable in discussions around easing physical distancing restrictions.

Dr. Doug Manuel
 Dr. Doug Manuel
Dr. Jean-Simon Diallo
 Dr. Jean-Simon Diallo

Repurposing existing drugs and finding new ones

Dr. Jean-Simon Diallo and his colleagues have developed a novel “bio-sensor” that can identify drugs that block the COVID-19 virus from attaching to cells, thereby preventing infection. First, they plan to test this novel approach on a library of more than 1,000 small molecules that have been approved to treat other diseases. Then they will attempt to identify novel antivirals drugs from a library of more than 200,000 small molecules.

More inspiring projects

The projects currently underway are just the beginning. In the coming weeks, additional COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund grants will be awarded for research, as well as for the development of innovative treatments and creative new ways to combat the virus. But our work is not yet complete. We need donor support to ensure the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund can continue to support front-line medical teams, provide essential equipment, and contribute to the care and comfort of patients.

To find out more about our research and the many collaborators working to make these projects happen, please visit The Ottawa Hospital’s Research Institute.

Keep checking back for more updates on how donations are being put to work right away and are making a difference in The Ottawa Hospital’s fight against COVID-19. To get regular updates sent directly to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter, Vital Links.

The Ottawa Hospital is a leading academic health and research centre and teaching hospital proudly affiliated with the University of Ottawa.

We need your support to fund COVID-19 research projects to help in the global fight against this infectious disease. Donate through The Ottawa Hospital’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund today.

More Inspiring Stories

Tapping into the good feeling of giving during COVID-19
COVID-19 is inspiring individuals, groups, and businesses to support The Ottawa Hospital and share their message of giving.
Nanji family donates $100,000 matching gift to help combat COVID-19.
Nanji family donates $100,000 matching gift to help combat COVID-19
Facing COVID-19 head-on
Researchers from The Ottawa Hospital work to make a significant difference in the fight against COVID-19

Facing COVID-19 head-on

It’s been over a decade since the last pandemic emerged. Though it’s difficult to predict when or how a pandemic will unfold, experts at The Ottawa Hospital are prepared to make a significant difference in the global fight against COVID-19.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, experts at The Ottawa Hospital and healthcare partners throughout the region have geared up to stop the spread of this infectious disease. From our crisis preparedness plan, to COVID-19 research already underway, we have the knowledge and experience to tackle this pandemic head-on. Our researchers are harnessing their unique expertise and exploring more than 50 COVID-19 research projects to help in the global fight against this virus.

All of the COVID-19 simulation exercises and research projects being explored at The Ottawa Hospital will make use of shared research equipment, resources, and facilities that have been developed over many years, thanks to generous support from our community.

“Thanks to generous support from the community over the years, we’ve been able to develop unique research facilities and technologies that we are now rapidly applying to the fight against COVID-19,” said Dr. Duncan Stewart, Executive VP Research, The Ottawa Hospital. “Similarly, today’s community support for research means we will be ready for tomorrow’s health challenges, whatever they may be.”

Calming the immune system in critically ill patients

Dr. Stewart is leading a team of researchers working to launch a clinical trial of mesenchymal stromal cells (MSC) therapy for COVID-19 patients with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS).

The immune system plays a crucial role in defending the body against COVID-19, but sometimes it can become overactivated, resulting in severe damage to the lungs, called ARDS. In COVID-19 patients, ARDS is the major cause of severe illness and death.

Studies have shown that mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) can dampen an overactive immune response and help patients with ARDS related to other kinds of infections. Our researchers will build on their extensive experience in manufacturing MSCs and leading the world’s first clinical trial of MSCs for septic shock. This project will likely involve partners in Ontario and Europe, working in a concerted effort to find novel therapies to improve outcomes in COVID-19 patients.

Repurposing existing drugs and finding new ones

Other researchers of The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa are looking to identify already-existing drugs and their potential effectiveness in treating patients with COVID-19. Drs. Taha Azad, Ragunath Singaravelu, Jean-Simon Diallo and John Bell have developed a novel system known as a bio-sensor that can identify small molecule drugs that block the COVID-19 virus from attaching to cells, thereby preventing infection. First, they plan to test this approach on a library of more than 1,000 small molecules that have been approved to treat other diseases. They will then attempt to identify antiviral drugs that could be effective in treating this virus.

Researcher doing work in a laboratory.
Dr. John Bell in his lab at The Ottawa Hospital. His team could use their virus manufacturing expertise in the production of a vaccine for COVID-19.


Learning from our COVID-19 patients and testing therapies

Researchers from around the world are sharing their experiences and findings and are working together to determine the best approach to treating patients with COVID-19.

To help with this global effort, infectious disease researchers at The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa are working locally to create a registry of COVID-19 patients in our community. Under the leadership of Dr. Michaeline McGuinty and Dr. William Cameron, the researchers plan to look for patterns among cases and determine how well treatments are working. They will also use blood samples to study the virus and the body’s response to each treatment.

“Thanks to generous support from the community over the years, we’ve been able to develop unique research facilities and technologies that we are now rapidly applying to the fight against COVID-19.” – Dr. Duncan Stewart, Executive VP Research, The Ottawa Hospital

Working towards a vaccine

While some researchers work to find better treatment options for COVID-19, Dr. Carolina Ilkow, Dr. John Bell and their team of experts in making cancer-fighting viruses at The Ottawa Hospital are working hard to develop a possible vaccine, in partnership with scientists and clinicians in Canada and around the world. The vaccine would contain small parts of genetic material from the COVID-19 virus, embedded into a different virus that does not cause human disease. This replicating viral vaccine would also produce its own adjuvant – a substance that stimulates a stronger immune response, resulting in a more effective vaccine. Once a promising vaccine is created, the team will be able to make large quantities in The Ottawa Hospital’s Biotherapeutics Manufacturing Centre. This facility is the only hospital-based lab in Canada capable of producing virus-based vaccines and therapies for clinical trials.

Nurses at the COVID-19 Assessment Centre prepare a swab to be transported to the lab and tested for COVID-19.

Putting preparedness to the test

While our researchers have been nimble in responding to COVID-19 The Ottawa Hospital was already planning for the possibility of a future pandemic long before this virus appeared. When it comes to preparing for the worst, we are leading the way in developing strategies to effectively manage a crisis.

The intensive care units (ICU) at both the General and Civic campuses, where the most acutely ill COVID-19 patients will be treated, will triple their current size should we need the room. If these become over capacitated, the hospital would make use of other existing hospital facilities to increase its ability to care for severely ill patients.

Eastern Ontario hospitals are also working together to create a regional patient flow strategy to care for patients. Hospitals will transfer COVID-19 positive patients who need acute or critical care to select hospitals for treatment. Patients who do not require this level of care will be transferred out of acute or critical care hospitals to the most appropriate hospital setting. This will ensure that our healthcare system does not become overwhelmed by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Simulation exercises save lives

Transferring patients from the Emergency Department to the ICU is no easy feat in a 100-year-old hospital. It’s for this reason, the University of Ottawa Skills and Simulation Centre have readied staff by running simulation drills and tests.

The drills, which made use of a high-tech mannequin capable of sneezing, are designed to refine the safe treatment and transport of a severely-ill patient experiencing respiratory failure.

Simulations are vital as they allow staff to practice their skills in a real-time environment make adjustments if necessary, and ultimately provide better care to patients. Similar to the Code Orange simulations, which took place two months before the Westboro bus crash on January 11, 2019, this type of hands-on training further prepares staff on the frontlines.

On November 16, 2018, The Ottawa Hospital underwent a Code Orange emergency response exercise as part of ongoing preparedness to respond effectively to a disaster in the community. Participating in such a training exercise meant staff would be even more prepared should a real Code Orange be called.

Just two months later, a double-decker bus crashed into the Westboro bus station. Thirteen severely-injured patients were subsequently transported to the Emergency Department. The simulation exercise helped to ensure that The Ottawa Hospital staff were even more prepared to save their lives.

Community support essential

A strong hospital requires the support of its community and that couldn’t be more true than during these unprecedented times. You can support world-class care and ground-breaking research that is saving lives every day.

Donate today to the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund to help patients and staff directly affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

More Inspiring Stories

Tapping into the good feeling of giving during COVID-19
COVID-19 is inspiring individuals, groups, and businesses to support The Ottawa Hospital and share their message of giving.
Nanji family donates $100,000 matching gift to help combat COVID-19.
Nanji family donates $100,000 matching gift to help combat COVID-19

COVID-19: from the frontlines of The Ottawa Hospital

Meet just some of the people from The Ottawa Hospital who are working each day to keep our community safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a time where the public must stay home, essential workers are making their way to The Ottawa Hospital each day. They are here to care for the sickest in our region because after all, other illness and injury won’t take a backseat to COVID-19.

Doctors, nurses, and essential support staff walk through the hospital doors with one goal in mind: to make sure each patient has the best possible care. In the midst of a global pandemic and public fear, these hospital team members also have to find their own way of caring for themselves, their families, and remaining healthy through the difficult times.

They are the calming voice for each patient, whether it’s a surgeon performing lifesaving surgery for your loved one, a nurse administering chemotherapy treatment, or an orderly sharing a smile and kind words to a patient who isn’t able to have visitors at this time.

These are the stories from the frontlines of The Ottawa Hospital.

Preparing for the pandemic

Preparing for COVID-19 is not just about ensuring that The Ottawa Hospital is ready, it’s also about organizing the entire Champlain region of hospitals. That’s where Dr. Andrew Willmore, Medical Director, Department of Emergency Management at The Ottawa Hospital comes in.

Dr. Willmore is also the Incident Commander for the Champlain Health Region. He’s been helping, in partnership with the City of Ottawa, to prepare for an influx of patients who are expected to require hospitalization as a result of COVID-19. That preparation began about four years ago by creating an Incident Management System (IMS) within The Ottawa Hospital.

“This allows us to create mechanisms to flip into an incident mode, which allows us to reorganize how the hospital functions and when we should escalate to a higher level,” explains Dr. Willmore.

When the pandemic started and The Ottawa Hospital was tasked with coordinating the response in the region, an IMS structure was applied to the rest of the region. “This allowed us to implement changes to our care delivery models like opening the COVID-19 Assessment Centre, Care Clinics, as well as a regional staffing and logistics distribution model to ensure departments that are struggling are supported,” explains Dr. Willmore.

Dr. Andrew Willmore leading a huddle at the COVID-19 Assessment Centre


“I am so humbled by this role. I have a long day, I look around, and I see everyone who has had just as long of a day. The talent we have in house and regionally is beyond my expectations. It’s really a powerful thing to see come together at the end of the day.”- Dr. Andrew Willmore

The key has been working collaboratively with Ottawa Public Health to flatten the curve. The response of the community has given Dr. Willmore and his team the lead time to implement the plan without the hospitals becoming overburdened. “We’re sprinting to preparedness. We are looking at the whole system as a region. If you don’t have someone zooming out, then it’s very easy to trip over each other.” There’s no tripping in this collaborative effort.

With a long road still ahead, Dr. Willmore stops to reflect on the work he and his colleagues at The Ottawa Hospital are doing during these unprecedented times. “I am so humbled by this role. When I have had a long day, I look around, and I see everyone who has had just as long of a day. The talent we have in house and regionally is very inspiring, and absolutely everyone is engaged. It’s really a powerful thing to see come together at the end of the day.”

Nurses at The Ottawa Hospital COVID-19 Assessment Centre
Staff at the COVID-19 Assessment Centre


“Despite physical distancing, I’ve never seen a community come together like this before.” – Kim Hargreaves

Nurses rally together

Kim Hargreaves is a nurse in the medical day care unit specializing in blood cancer. She and her colleagues administer chemotherapy and supportive care for those with blood cancers, such as Leukemia, Lymphoma, Multiple Myeloma, and MDS.

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, that care must continue for these patients. “In medical day care, we support each other 100 percent. Everybody pitches in,” says Kim.

Kim explains that nurses are being redeployed from other areas of the hospital to provide care to these patients. “Nurses from clinics whose patients are able to meet with their doctors virtually are cross training to come and help our team on the frontlines.”

This dedicated nurse, who is celebrating 31 years at The Ottawa Hospital this year, says all the community support is really helping the front-line team. “When you see those signs, you straighten up your shoulders and you know you’re needed and appreciated no matter how tired you are.” Kim continues, “We are not rushing around like in the Emergency Department or ICU, but we’re providing continuity of care.”

Kim Hargreaves (far right) and her colleagues at The Ottawa Hospital.

In all her years of nursing, Kim has never been so inspired by what she’s witnessing during this pandemic. “Despite physical distancing, I’ve never seen a community come together like this before,” says Kim.

Back from retirement

Within three hours of calling The Ottawa Hospital, Robin Morash was rehired and she was back in her scrubs within days helping patients.

After 33 years as a nurse at The Ottawa Hospital, with many years in management at the Cancer Centre, Robin was two years into retirement when she felt compelled to return. “We were hearing day in and day out just how busy the teams were, and I wanted to help my community.”

Robin Morash, back from retirement

Robin is doing just that by working at the COVID-19 Assessment Centre along with many colleagues and community partners. She says this is exactly what she trained for as a nurse and why she needed to return to work. “It’s a part of who we are. The idea of just sitting back and watching others scurry around, just isn’t us (nurses).”

Nurses ‘get it done’

Alongside Robin at the COVID-19 Assessment Centre is Joselyn Banks, a former clinical manager with The Ottawa Hospital who had just retired in December 2019 after a nursing career that spanned 35 years. When the pandemic hit, she cancelled a trip to Florida and contacted the hospital to find out how she could help.

“I looked at my colleagues and friends — I’m very proud of them. I’m very happy to have helped, in at least this little way.” – Barb Bijman

“For me it was just knowing our community needs help. Knowing the colleagues and friends I have at The Ottawa Hospital must be working crazy hours and I just wanted to be able to come back to help whoever, whenever, and in whichever capacity that I could,” says Joselyn.

Joselyn has been putting her skills to work at the COVID-19 Assessment Centre since the day it opened. She says it’s reassuring to know their work at the centre is having a positive impact. “We’re hearing feedback from many of our colleagues back at the campuses that we’re doing great work and helping to keep people who want to get swabbed out of the Emergency Department. So that’s great as well.” The centre has so far diverted more than 9,000 patients away from the Emergency Departments.

It’s not lost on Joselyn the magnitude of the situation, but she says this is what nurses do. “For us, I think we’re passionate, we’re caring—we’re nurses. We’re doers. Let’s get up and get it done. Let’s go.”

Joselyn Banks at the COVID-19 Assessment Centre


The sacrifice of coming out of retirement

It’s not an easy decision to come out of retirement at a time like this. There are sacrifices–Jennifer Smylie knows that all too well.

Jennifer says she made the conscious decision to return to work, knowing she wouldn’t be able to have close contact with her elderly mother. But as a lifelong nurse, it’s what she needed to do. “There is some risk to it, but we’ve done things like this throughout our careers. We weighed the risk and decided this is the right thing to do.”

The veteran nurse, who spent more than 30 years at The Ottawa Hospital, and was most recently a manager in the cancer program before retiring, stepped in to work with the screeners.

Screeners are on hand to greet anyone who enters The Ottawa Hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to keep everything organized and safe, Jennifer answered the call. “I didn’t hesitate, and I thought this is the right thing to do,” says Jennifer.

She explains it’s an important role to keep patients and staff safe. “We make sure anyone who enters the hospital answers the screening questions and they are safe to enter. It’s very busy, but we’re trying to be very compassionate with everyone we screen.”

Nurse Jennifer Smylie at The Ottawa Hospital General Campus

Retired nurse proud to be back

After 34 years working in the ICU at The Ottawa Hospital, Barb Bijman retired from nursing in 2017, but kept her license. Little did she know that she’d need it to lend a hand during a global pandemic.

The decision to return to the frontlines meant giving up time with her grandchildren and elderly mother, but she had to do it. “It’s a nurse thing—we go to help. That’s why so many of us decided to come back from retirement,” says Barb.

Nurse Barb Bijman at the COVID-19 Assessment Centre


As her voice cracks from emotion, she acknowledges it’s a stressful time for everyone, both healthcare workers and the public — yet she couldn’t imagine being anywhere else than providing support at the COVID-19 Assessment Centre. “I’m so proud of The Ottawa Hospital, everything it has done. It’s a really good place. I was looking at it from the outside in, at times like the bus crash and now. I looked at my colleagues and friends—I’m very proud of them. I’m very happy to have helped in at least this little way.”

Team at 3D Printing Lab steps forward

As members of The Ottawa Hospital’s 3D Printing Laboratory watched how COVID-19 was unfolding in China and Europe, they saw how some parts of the world were facing dramatic equipment shortages. That’s when Dr. Adnan Sheikh, Director of the 3D Printing Laboratory, reached out to Dr. David Neilipovitz, Department Head of Critical Care to offer help.

Since then, the 3D printing team has been able to think creatively to help protect colleagues who will be caring for patients critically ill from COVID-19. That team also includes Dr. Olivier Miguel and Dr. Leonid Chepelev, both research associates.

Dr. Neilipovitz has played a key role in testing these designs in advance, allowing The Ottawa Hospital to be innovative during challenging times. “Thanks to our 3D team, they allow us to think outside the box and find us solutions to help our patients,” says Dr. Neilipovitz.

It’s a time where colleagues are helping colleagues. “We have developed and adapted multiple designs for personal protective equipment (PPE),” says Dr. Chepelev.

Dr. Chepelev adds the hospital’s 3D printing lab is producing as much quantity as it can handle right now. “We have used our 3D printers to produce the necessary parts such as smaller connectors, respirator mask parts for PPE, ventilator prototypes.” It’s a truly collaborative effort explains Dr. Chepelev, “As printing takes time, the team has been able to use the printers to prototype devices which we then pushed out to production at the various Ottawa 3D printing sites with hundreds of volunteers, or where possible to local plastics manufacturers.”

Dr. David Neilipovitz, Department Head of Critical Care at The Ottawa Hospital

The best part of all, notes Dr. Sheikh, is that this all came about organically. “Colleagues helping colleagues—having an open mind and being willing to integrate what we can contribute. Assessing the gear and testing it out to make it reality.”

Changing ways for palliative care

Dr. Miriam Mottiar is an anesthesiologist and a palliative care physician at The Ottawa Hospital. While significant changes have been implemented for her work as an anesthesiologist in the operating room, including suiting up with PPE, it’s the changes she’s seen as a palliative care doctor that pull at her heart.

The COVID-19 crisis has made it very different for patients and their families. “Patients no longer have their family members at their bedside because of the visitor restrictions,” explains Dr. Mottiar. In order to provide that compassionate care, Dr. Mottiar and her team are still trying to help patients and their families connect during these difficult times.

“We are facilitating a lot of phone calls and video chats between patients and their family members. We’re also having more patients request to go home for end of life care, where they may not have been asking for that before, because at home they can have their loved ones with them.” In order to accommodate, Dr. Mottiar works with community partners to help with those requests from her patients, when possible.

She acknowledges these are challenging times for her palliative patients, as it’s not until the final hours of life that a family member can join their loved one in person. She adds, “It breaks my heart a bit as a human and a physician because we’ve had to change the way we practice due to the very significant concerns we have about the virus spreading in our community.”

Dr. Miriam Mottiar

I.T. up for the unprecedented challenge

It was an unprecedented task for the technology team at The Ottawa Hospital. Within three-and-a-half days, the COVID-19 Assessment Centre, a remote, out-of-hospital clinic where patients could be assessed by a healthcare provider and tested for COVID-19, needed to be ready for patients. They made it happen.

Jim Makris, Manager of Networking and Voice Services, says it meant preparing two separate buildings to be connected back to The Ottawa Hospital. “We had to set up a network connection back to the hospital, build a network at the new facility, install wireless access, and we had to deploy our phones as well.” Bottom line, Jim’s team had to make sure the front-line healthcare workers had the same access to The Ottawa Hospital as their colleagues at each campus. “Normally it would take a month to get a facility like this up and running. We did it in two days.”

Brewer Assessment Centre

Swift action made the centre operational. Next Stephen Roos, Manager of Client Services, stepped in with his team to make sure equipment was brought in, set-up, and running efficiently. “In addition, experts trained in Epic, the hospital’s Health Information System (HIS), arrived to provide the nurses on site with the training they needed to make sure all patients’ information was entered into Epic so that they could be made available to patients via a secure process using MyChart. That was an important piece in this process,” adds Stephen.

Both Jim and Stephen acknowledge this was a true partnership between the City of Ottawa and The Ottawa Hospital. It was the city which brought both power and internet access to the buildings allowing the hospital’s team to take over.

The two men are quick to add their unit is humbled to have the opportunity to support the front-line workers. “Yes, things came together really fast for our I.T. team and we worked a few really long and hard days, but the fact the front-line workers are going into work each day, caring for patients—what we did is nothing compared to what they do,” says Stephen.

Keeping the supplies on track

Roman Medzhitov is a Material Management Supervisor at The Ottawa Hospital. It’s a crucial role for him and his team these days.

Roman is responsible for all material supplies, from tissue to linen to personal protective equipment that go through the Civic Campus. He’s in charge of each unit and delivering supplies. “Since the arrival of COVID-19, supplies are the biggest demand,” acknowledges Roman.

Knowing that patient and staff safety is of utmost importance, Roman’s role has changed from a weekly check-in with units, to a 24-hour cycle of communication. “We reconnect every 24 hours to ensure departments are equipped with what they need to keep staff and patients safe. Together, we take an inventory and review the most important items and supplies.”

Roman Medzhitov

This advanced planning and careful organization has helped Roman and his team stay ahead. “Without doing this, we would probably have fallen behind on a lot of our supplies. We are always double checking that quantities are accurate.”

While we all face uncertainty with each coming day, there is a calming reassurance knowing our front-line healthcare workers are harnessing their knowledge to care for all patients during these challenging times. It’s that care which we will look back on someday, and it will only be then that we realize how instrumental each role was when our community was in need during these unprecedented times.

Donate today to the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund to help patients and staff directly affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

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