Early lessons: Tackling a global crisis with a community response

In the 17 years since the SARS crisis, Ontario has invested in our public health system and improved connections across the healthcare system to better respond ‘as one.’ Although we are still a long way from having a fully integrated healthcare system, we at least understand the imperative to think and act like one system, and every day there are leaders and clinicians stepping-up to lead positive change.

As the COVID-19 crisis escalates, we see similar critical success factors for developing integrated systems of care such as Ontario Health Teams, and the response to large-scale healthcare emergencies – both scenarios are complex and dynamic, requiring a shared sense of purpose, trusted personal and organizational relationships across different sectors, distributed leadership, and a strong role for organized primary care networks. However, large-scale emergencies further demand the system make changes quickly, within a precarious context, and with significantly higher stakes.

For the East Toronto Health Partners (ETHP), the investment in building our core partnership over more than two decades helped accelerate our initial response to the novel coronavirus. The ETHP are a network of healthcare and social services organizations, recently named as one of the first Ontario Health Teams, that have partnered to better integrated care in our East Toronto community of more than 300,000 residents.

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