Reinventing care for COVID-19: how QCH came together

When COVID-19 came to Ottawa, Queensway Carleton Hospital (QCH) responded quickly — transforming the way work is done across every aspect of the hospital, while working through the medical mysteries of the deadly virus.

The first transformation was on our Acute Care of the Elderly (ACE Unit) — a specialized unit that normally provides acute care for elderly patients to help them return home. In March, we designated the unit for the care of patients with COVID-19 because its spacious layout and private rooms were especially good for this type of patient care. The staff on the ACE unit completely changed how they work, and how they provide care.

Our Intensive Care Unit (ICU) quickly took on COVID patients who needed their specialized kind of care, providing patients with ventilators — among other necessary care — to help them fight the virus. The QCH ICU was hit early. When the virus first arrived in Ottawa, our ICU held more COVID-positive patients than any other ICU in the entire region, from Cornwall to Scarborough. The ICU team conquered their initial fear and worked together to treat and care for these new patients with courage and resilience.

The QCH ICU quickly filled up and the hospital opened a second ICU in our surgical recovery area — one designated for non-COVID patients. The team rose to the challenge and did everything they could to be able to provide care to ICU patients, including relearning skills specific to intensive care and reconfiguring their entire unit.

Important changes were occurring outside the hospital walls at the same time.

Members of QCH staff supported Carlingview Long Term Care home

QCH converted the former D. A. Moodie Intermediate School in Bells Corners into a West COVID-19 Care Clinic. Alongside physicians from the community, the team provides assessment, testing and treatment to the people with respiratory and flulike symptoms. Since its opening day, the Clinic has seen over 5,000 patients — a steadily increasing number as the province continues to release new COVID testing requirements.

Staff nimbly moved to wherever they were needed most — every member of the hospital contributed proudly as part of one team.

Within a two-week period, the Fairfield Inn and Suites in Kanata was converted to a fully functional extension of QCH — and a temporary home for low-acuity, low-risk patients. This offsite unit is a fully functional inpatient unit, where QCH staff provide the same level of care they would onsite. This helped to free up patient beds in the hospital
itself. QCH is very grateful to the Fairfield Inn for its incredible response and partnership.

While visiting hours were suspended to ensure the safety of our patients, it was still important that patients were able to stay in contact with loved ones. Thus, virtual visits were coordinated at QCH — connecting patients and their loved ones through donated mobile devices and specialized software.

Diagnostic Imaging and clinical staff at the West COVID-19 Care Clinic

In April, QCH was called on to help support residents and staff of Carlingview manor, a long-term care home, as part of a coordinated regional response. QCH provided expertise on best practices in infection control and helped address staffing shortages — filling a total of 661 shifts over a five-week period. Nurses, physicians, personal care aides, Allied Health professionals, clerks and other support staff kindly raised their hand to volunteer for shifts in the unfamiliar environment.

Many other changes occurred throughout the hospital, such as:

• Created separate zones within the Emergency Department for patients with
possible COVID symptoms, and those without

• Started a Protected Intubation Team which provides 24/7 intubation support
for COVID positive or suspected patients, and other heightened risk intubations

• Initiated virtual appointments, such as in Mental Health, Physiotherapy and at
the West COVID Care Clinic

Many staff across the hospital were deployed into completely new roles: surgical nurses who became ICU and Emergency nurses, financial staff who became screeners, diagnostic technicians who became cleaners, clerks who fed patients, support staff who assembled masks. Staff nimbly moved to wherever they were needed most — every member of the hospital contributed proudly as part of one team.

The story of COVID-19 is far from over. We optimistically look forward to telling the full story of how we tackled this virus together as a community in our annual report next year.

Fairfield’s first patient, Staff behind protective barriers