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Pandemic Point of View

Thursday March 10, 2022

  • News & Media

Over the past two years of the pandemic, staff across our hospital have worked tirelessly to keep our patients and community safe. As we hit the two year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve asked staff to reflect on their experience in an effort to highlight the incredible work that has been done over the past two years.

Marianne Baragar, RN, ICU

  • As I sit back and reflect on the last 2 years, I have so many mixed emotions and I constantly wonder how I survived. As the weeks went by, I always wondered if this was going to be the shift that I was going to contract COVID and bring it home to my family, it was terrifying, and I wanted it so badly to end! I sat back and watched my kids navigate online learning and everybody surrounding us trying to adjust to this new way of living, my focus very quickly turned into making sure everyone stayed safe and continued to be mentally healthy! The months continued to go on and the teamwork that came over our ICU was something I am so proud to be a part of. We persevered through it all and somehow left our shifts standing in one piece. We helped and supported each other through the tears, the fatigue, and the stress of the pandemic. We have grown together as a unit and have brought back the true meaning of teamwork; we are not just colleagues we are a family!


Debbie Fletcher-Queen, Data Administrator, Surgical Program

  • There is no doubt this COVID-19 pandemic changed everything. Personally, I remember riding my bike in the early days of the pandemic on the near empty streets of Newmarket. It felt apocalyptic. I would wear my Southlake ID badge on the outside of my coat to ensure those around me knew I had a purpose in being out in the world. The Honk for Heroes community drive-by was incredible. The absolute love and support were palpable. I can still cry watching that video! To be alive at this time in history is remarkable beyond words; the strides in healthcare alone have vastly improved our mortality and morbidity rates. But there is nothing like the power of a pandemic to shake the very foundation of society. This is not necessarily a bad thing. As difficult as this pandemic has been, and I am very cognizant of the fact that I am not a client facing health care provider, it provides us with an opportunity to re-set. Re-set within the heath care setting, within our own lives here in Canada, and as global citizens. Because COVID-19 taught us there are grave gaps in our world, our humanity. But COVID-19 also taught us we are brave, resilient, and resourceful. I believe we have what it takes to bridge those gaps. Our tool? Hope.

Robert Angus, Clerical Coordinator, Health Information Services

  • Health Information has been through quite a rollercoaster ride over the last 2 years. When the pandemic hit, we were able to set our Coding and Decision Support staff to work remotely. Our Clerical team was another story. They needed to be on-site, but with a reduction in patients, there was a reduction in work. Redeployment became the word of the day. Our staff screened, acted as runners, assisted with virtual visits, staffed the testing and vaccination clinics, and handled the call centre for Patient Portal so that people could access their test results. I think the thing I will remember most is the resilience and flexibility that was shown by them. Like everyone else at Southlake, they adapted and did their best. I believe we have all learned new skills and have grown as a team.

Natalie Lorello, Employee and Labour Relations Consultant, Human Resources Department

  • Our Human Resources team has had to tremendously adapt to the changes and challenges brought on by COVID-19. We needed to quickly learn new legislation and mandates such as, directive 6 and the emergency order to be able to support the hospital, management, and employees in managing the pandemic and have an understanding on the impacts these mandates have working in a unionized environment. We had to develop creative strategies for the health human resource shortages and ways to support our staff experiencing mental health and family challenges due to COVID-19. The pandemic has fundamentally expanded the role of HR as it has had to support the navigation of one of the most complex people centric challenges and has changed the way we work.

Dr. Charmaine van Schaik, Pediatrician, Physician Leader Maternal Child program & Quality and Patient Safety

  • The incredible power of teamwork, at all system levels, has been an everyday experience throughout the pandemic, with willingness and energy and kindness and compassion, all despite exhaustion and personal factors. The silver lining is the knowledge we gained in an accelerated fashion, and the many, many new and lasting relationships created. The most memorable for me was the way we supported vaccinations for our people and those in our community. Another shining light was the mutual support between all levels of adult and pediatric medicine – everyone functioned as one healthcare team to support the needs. Going forward, we will have many new ways and partnerships in caring for our community that will stay with us into the future.

Rob Bull, Vice President, Finance, Technology and Innovation, Chief Financial Officer

  • The event I will remember most is the community and first responder drive-by outside the hospital. The early days of the pandemic were incredibly eerie, like the outside world had fallen silent. The hospital was quieter, roads and streets were empty, and stores were closed. To see and hear an explosion of colour and noise from our community in honour of hospital staff was incredibly moving and gave a real boost to everyone’s spirits.

Lynn Conforti, Director, Philanthropy, Southlake Foundation

  • As a fundraiser, there are so many amazing moments etched into my mind from the early days of the pandemic. In particular, how our community rallied around Southlake in such frightening and uncertain times. I remember getting calls from longtime donors asking simply “What do you need? How can we help?” And how quickly local companies and community members stepped up to provide our hospital staff with everything from hard-to-find PPE to snacks, beverages, and even full meals. There was even one local couple who donated $500 to our COVID-19 Action Fund, despite the fact that they had both just lost their jobs. I will never, ever forget that generosity. Our community has always stepped up to help Southlake, but even so, in all my years here, I’ve never felt the philanthropic spirit quite as strongly as I did during those early pandemic days. I am so grateful. We all are. “Thank you” will never feel like enough.

Tish Pierson, Manager, Food Services

  • Several times in the early stages of the pandemic when it seemed the world locked down and many people were not working or forced to work at home, I know our department felt very fortunate in that we had a place to work where we made a difference, and the pandemic did not limit us or force us to stay in our homes.  All of us felt we were doing something positive, and we trusted in the science-based facts that were communicated from the hospital and we knew we were safe.  The support from the community with the drive by of cars and the donations of food and free products from various companies was special because it wasn’t planned it just happened, and it was very magical.