From off-site hospital wing to comprehensive transitional care centre: ETHP’s Kew Beach Unit experiences remarkable growth to become model of integrated care delivery

Kew Beach team members posing indoors wearing masks

Team members at East Toronto Health Partners’ (ETHP) Kew Beach Unit have been providing care and support for the community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

When Michael Garron Hospital (MGH) and VHA Home HealthCare (VHA) launched the Kew Beach Unit in 2020, it was meant to be a temporary off-site hospital wing designed to create additional bed capacity in response to hospital pressures arising from COVID-19.

Two years later, the site – located at the former Atrium at Kew Beach retirement home on Kingston Road – is a shining model for delivering coordinated, integrated care in the community: a place where healthcare, community, social services and home care organizations work together to serve alternate level of care (ALC) patients, many of whom are older adults.

“When we initially launched the unit, we thought of it as a short-term solution to help expand the hospital’s capacity to care for patients beyond our walls,” says Mark Fam, Vice President, Clinical Programs at MGH and member of East Toronto Health Partners (ETHP), the Ontario Health Team (OHT) serving East Toronto.

“Now here we are, two years later, with a comprehensive transitional care centre providing ongoing support for our community.”

Providing care close to home

The Kew Beach Unit is a unique collaborative initiative from ETHP.

Patients at the unit are considered ALC. In other words, they no longer require an intense level of acute, hospital-level care but continue to need around-the-clock care from nurses and personal support care providers as they await discharge to their next destination.

“Our patients and their families are finding great comfort in being transferred to a unit located in their neighbourhood,” says Oliva Mabborang, VHA Program Manager at Kew Beach Unit.

“Here they are getting the high-quality care they need while staying close to home and their family. The patients really appreciate this.”

“My mom is receiving great care,” says the daughter of a patient. “When I talk to her… I can tell she’s happy.”

At times throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, when family were not able to visit the unit as part of efforts to keep everyone protected, nurses were instrumental in keeping families updated and connected with patients.

“They always take the time to provide detailed updates and even arranged phone check-ins so I could speak to my mom,” the patient’s daughter added.

Expanding services to support older adults

Since its inception, ETHP’s Kew Beach Unit has undergone remarkable growth.

“We started off with 20 beds and a team of 30 staff operating in a dedicated wing of Atrium at Kew Beach,” says Glendon Flint, Director of Strategic Projects and Initiatives at VHA.

“This was in the early days of the pandemic and we projected the operation would run for three months. We now occupy the entire site and care for 80 hospital patients supported by a staff of over 110. It’s been an incredible journey.”

The Kew Beach Unit’s expansion is not only reflected in the number of beds and staff, but also in the breadth and depth of services it can offer to support patients.

“There is a real wealth of services being offered here,” Glendon says.

“We’ve been very successful at leveraging the diverse field expertise our team has to offer. In addition to nursing and personal support, VHA provides physiotherapy, occupational therapy, social work, speech language therapy and dietetics.  Patients also receive support from transition navigators.”

WoodGreen Community Services, another ETHP member organization, now runs an Active Living Centre on-site at the Kew Beach Unit which offers further supports to the community, including exercise and falls prevention classes, educational workshops and social and recreational programming for seniors.

“We are pleased to provide these additional services for seniors in the community,” says Dorothy Quon, Integrated Director for Seniors and Aging at MGH and WoodGreen, also responsible for the Kew Beach Unit.

“Working together with VHA and MGH, we can provide more enhanced support for these East Toronto community members.”

Becoming a ‘hub’ for the community

Over the last two years, the Kew Beach Unit has proven to be a sustainable alternative care model for East Toronto that may provide a template for other regions.

“This unit has matured into a viable model for delivering coordinated care within local health teams,” says Courtney Bean, Vice President of Strategic Solutions and Partnerships at VHA.

“There is a genuine spirit of collaboration with physicians, nurses, personal support workers, rehab specialists and other clinicians all working together to keep patients safe and help them prepare to transition to their next destination.

“And with WoodGreen’s Active Living Centre, there is the potential for this to be a hub for our community,” Courtney continues. “It’s a great example of the way our OHT is supporting residents of the East Toronto corridor.”

“The Kew Beach Unit has not only been an efficient means to care for our ALC patients,” Mark adds.

“It has also been a very effective way of managing capacity in the hospital. It’s a great model for working collaboratively with partners to provide enhanced support in the community.”

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