Terry Pursell, President and CEO, North York General Foundation

COVID-19 Updates: Message from the President – April 1, 2020

Dear Friends,

As the third week of working from home (#WFH) presses on, I have figured out how to (mostly) flawlessly log onto “Teams” for video conferencing and (mostly) remember when I am not on mute. Our household has cleared the 14 days of quarantine, with all no worse for the wear and the benefit of preparing us for #stayhome. None of us could have imagined how our lives have changed in just over two weeks. Working in the philanthropic sector is a privilege at the best of times, and in these worst of times, my colleagues and I are honoured to contribute to caring for this community.

Given that the Emergency Department is on the front line of tackling COVID-19, I thought you might be interested in a quick interview we were able to conduct with Dr. Jennifer Tomlin. Dr. Tomlin contacted me this morning and offered her assistance to the foundation in any way we needed. She appreciates the critical role donors have played over the years supporting our hospital.

Dr. Tomlin, Emergency Medicine Physician at North York General Hospital

Q: What would you like our community to know about your day to day work? How is it the same and how is it different? 

A: We are still caring for our community and our population, whether they come to our emergency department with COVID-19-related or non-COVID-19-related ailments. People are still coming in with the usual medical problems, from heart attacks, to appendicitis, to strokes, and we are still providing care for all of those patients.

Everything else, however, is different. People are being triaged in a different way and there is a heightened sense of alertness to someone possibly having COVID-19. The safest way to conduct our work is to assume anyone can have it. We wear personal protective equipment (PPE) when we see just about any patient now because we know that there are asymptomatic people in the community and that there’s community spread. In doing so, we’re protecting ourselves and our patients.

Right now, patient volumes are a little bit down, which is reassuring in one way because it suggests that people are really paying attention to the social distancing and self-isolation and not coming to the emergency department with problems that aren’t emergencies. On the other hand, we’re worried that people who are having medical problems that warrant going to emergency are scared to come to the emergency department because of COVID-19.

Q: How are you feeling about the weeks ahead, which indicate a significant surge in patients? 

A: We’re anxious about knowing that a significant surge in patients is coming but also not knowing the magnitude of it and when it will happen. We’re trying to be fully prepared for when it does come, but the waiting can be tough. This is a critical time for all of us— front-line workers and patients alike. Our generous donors are needed now, more than ever before.

We are also feeling gratitude. We’re grateful for having an amazing emergency department team made up of staff including nurses, physicians, administrative staff, team attendants, diagnostic imaging technicians and environmental services staff. Everyone is working together to ensure that we are safe and taking care of our patients to the best of our abilities. We are very grateful to all our colleagues for what they do and for the emotional support that everyone is giving to each other. We are very much in a department that relies on everyone having each other’s backs. We look out for and protect each other.

I’m also very grateful to our donors for everything they have done in the past and more specifically what they are doing now. Through the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, donations allowed the emergency department, ICU and cardiology department to purchase additional handheld ultrasound devices that will make a huge impact on the care of our patients during this pandemic.

Q: What advice are you giving your friends and family? 

A: STAY HOME. Wash your hands. Continue to practice social distancing. We’re really hoping that everyone’s efforts will make a difference within the next few weeks. One thing to realize about social distancing and self-isolation is that the results are not immediate. It takes time. But we’re very hopeful that with our society doing what is being asked of them, it will really help us in our emergency department and the rest of the hospital to flatten the curve. It is imperative that we don’t get inundated all at once with COVID-19-positive patients, as that will certainly tax our entire hospital and our health care infrastructure. So we really thank everyone for following the guidelines and rules.

It is different not being able to see your clinical colleagues, making it hard to imagine what they face day in and day out. I thank Dr. Tomlin for sharing what it is like at the hospital during these surreal times.

A bit of an update as per my other emails… with the surge in cases expected in the weeks ahead, the success of the North York General Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Drive takes on renewed importance. The PPE effort has been embraced by families and businesses alike and we have seen incredible donations of masks and other protective equipment for our health care workers.This appeal continues and should you be in a position to support this province-wide effort, please go to this dedicated site for more information on hours and location: www.NYGHppedrive.ca

Our COVID-19 Emergency Respond Fund was only publicly launched a week and a half ago, but in that time, we have had more than 1,200 donors contribute to the Fund and we continue to receive donations of all sizes. I look forward to sharing in the weeks ahead the impact of the Emergency Response Fund and the remarkable role our community has played in helping North York General tackle COVID-19. I think what is a lifeline for our hospital, is also an incredible opportunity for my team to reconnect with many of you and interact more closely with first-time donors. We are truly inspired by your support and your personal stories of North York General. Thank you and as always, I wish you good health.


My best thoughts to you and yours,

Terry Pursell
Terry Pursell
President & CEO

P.S. Our Assessment Centre, adjacent to our Charlotte & Lewis Steinberg Emergency , is open 24/7. We also have a dedicated COVID website for our patients to get their own results. Or you can call Telehealth at 1-866-797-0000 for advice and here are some other links to use as a resource