Starting the conversation about mental health

This week’s guest blogger is Kiki Ferrari, Interim Executive Vice President, Clinical Services

Pull up a chair. Let’s talk.

It’s a simple invitation, but for millions of Canadians living with mental health challenges, it’s one that’s not always easy to accept. January 25 is Bell Let’s Talk Day. This is an excellent opportunity for many of us at Osler to start the conversation about mental health, but we also need to continue the conversation in the days, weeks and months ahead.

Mental health issues touch all of us. Whether we’re living with mental health challenges ourselves, or supporting a colleague or loved one in the best way we can, the growing incidence is real. Here at Osler, the demand for mental health services is one of the fastest growing needs facing our community. In 2015-16, we had more than 65,000 visits to our Adult Mental Health Clinic and over 7,000 Child & Adolescent Mental Health Clinic visits. And in our Mental Health Emergency Services Unit (MHESU), the 1,500 patients we saw last year clearly shows the acute need for urgent mental health support in the community. These numbers have increased substantially over the past four years and we expect this trend to continue.

This shift has made mental health a central focus for our teams. A number of initiatives at Osler are helping us to support patients with these specialized needs:

  • The Geriatric Mental Health Team at Brampton Civic has created a “Silver Surfers” iPad program that introduces patients to cognitive stimulation games, provides social stimulation through Facebook and Skype, and helps create more comfort with technology so they can grocery shop, bank and fill prescriptions online. These skills can be used post-discharge in their daily lives.
  • Our Addiction Services team is working with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health to pilot an Integrated Care Pathway for people living with depression and alcoholism, which has had a positive impact on reducing depressive symptoms and improving drinking patterns.
  • Osler received a Leading Practice designation during our most recent Accreditation review for our use of the Osler Suicide Interview Checklist (OSIC), a 25-item suicide risk assessment designed for use by experienced clinicians during initial contact with a patient who may be at risk of suicide.

In addition to starting the conversation about mental health, the Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund provides grants to organizations across Canada to improve access to mental health care, supports and services for people living with mental illness.

In fact, Osler has directly benefitted from the Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund. In 2014, we received a one-time $25,000 grant to our Telephone Advice Psychiatry (TAP) program. TAP provides physicians throughout the region with expert advice and support that helps them better manage non-acute mental health issues of patients as they wait to be seen by a specialist. With this funding, the team was able to promote the program among 500 physicians in the Central West region. Osler Foundation is submitting new grant application for additional funding that will help us support more patients.

Mental health is important for us all. Let’s take a lead in starting the conversation, and let’s keep talking about it.

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Roaring into 2017 with record patient volumes

Happy New Year! After spending some quality time with family and friends over the holidays, I’m ready to kick off another exciting year at Osler. I hope you had the opportunity to make some special memories with your loved ones this season, too.

It feels so strange to be typing “2017” but there will be great things happening in the coming year – and it roared in like a lion! We expect to see a higher than normal volume of patients during the holidays and this year was no exception – in fact – it was another record setting year.

In true Osler fashion, the busy festive season started with a Code Gridlock at Brampton Civic Hospital that was lifted just two days before Christmas. The pace hasn’t let up. In fact, there were so many visitors to our emergency departments, we have issued a number of Code Gridlocks at Brampton Civic and Etobicoke General to help us manage the steady stream of patients. Our teams across the organization are mobilized and focused on patient admissions and timely discharges, and on working with our partners to help keep patients moving to where they needed to be in the hospital as quickly as possible.

According to Kiki Ferrari, Osler’s Interim Executive Vice President of Clinical Services, “Our teams are, and continue to be, nothing short of spectacular during this year’s surge and beyond. The past few holiday seasons have shown us just how vital it is to work together to manage high patient volumes, especially when we need to react to demands that seem to change hour to hour.”

A number of factors contributed to the increase in patient volumes, including a surge of flu activity in the community. Many hospitals in the Greater Toronto Area have seen a significant increase in patients coming to the ED with the flu as the season is starting to peak, and Osler is no different. With more than half of flu season left to go it’s even more important to get vaccinated.

By the official end of the two week surge period, we had an unprecedented 25,734 patient visits. When we break it down, this adds up to:

  • 10,146 patients in our emergency departments
  • 2,216 patients admitted for inpatient care
  • 13,432 outpatient and day surgery visits

That averages out to our teams providing care for approximately 1,719 patients per day. These numbers tell an incredible story that begins and ends with the tremendous teamwork and dedication of Osler’s teams throughout this challenging time. While the ED is often the first place we feel the surge, impacts are felt throughout the hospital. Our inpatient, diagnostic imaging, laboratory and support service teams – in collaboration with many others – also worked tirelessly to provide an exceptional experience for patients during this busy time.

High patient volumes are nothing new for us but the way everyone – including staff, physicians and volunteers – rallied in response should be acknowledged and commended.

Thank you for going beyond to provide patient-inspired care without boundaries.