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Safety Comes in Many Forms at Southlake

Tuesday April 18, 2023

‘Everyone has a role in helping to maintain a safe and secure environment at Southlake.’

This mantra is infused in everything we do – from frontline teams to the c-suite and everything in-between. Even before the pandemic, Southlake has made a concerted effort to refine its operations to prioritize safety, making significant strides throughout numerous areas of the hospital to protect staff, patients and visitors.

Safety for Staff

Each year, Southlake sees more than 350,000 patient visits to the hospital, contributing to millions of interactions by the frontline staff to provide care to the most vulnerable in our community. Our teams often serve patients overwhelmed with emotion, feelings of confusion, or experiencing a crisis. That’s why investing in safety is critical to ensure staff are properly equipped to  deliver leading edge care.

This year, the hospital launched a new Behavioural Support Team (BST) to compliment frontline staff by deploying this team’s expertise in supporting patients with complex needs and responsive behaviours that pose a greater risk of harmful interactions.  Southlake’s BST consists of a Nurse Practitioner, Registered Nurse, Registered Practical Nurse, Recreation Therapy Assistant, and a security ambassador specially-trained to de-escalate behaviours to support clinical teams to deliver safe patient care.

Ensuring the right patient is in the right bed, to receive the right care, from the right staff is critical to supporting safety at Southlake.

In September 2020, Southlake opened a new Emergent Mental Health Assessment Unit equipped with six single-occupancy assessment rooms. These dedicated spaces provide an isolated environment for crisis workers and psychiatrists to deliver care to the approximately 17 patients that present each day to the Emergency Department seeking mental health support.

To support the significant mental health care needs in the community, Southlake was proud to open a new 12-bed Adult Inpatient Mental Health Unit this year. The new unit prioritizes the needs of mental health patients by focusing on space, privacy, dignity, and support while protecting everyone’s health and safety. The added capacity means Southlake will be able to serve more than 2,000 patients each year with specialized equipment and safe furnishings tailored to meet the needs of mental health patients.

While these milestones are significant, they’re only a fraction of the work Southlake undertakes throughout the year to support staff safety.

Each day, leadership team members participate in a daily safety and risk call. These mandatory calls provide an opportunity for all Managers and Directors to provide updates on emerging or critical incidents so everyone is kept in the loop. It also allows the organization to respond in a timely manner in order to mitigate downstream crossfunctional impacts.

Inpatient unit managers across all departments are also required to complete violence prevention audits on a weekly basis. These electronic surveys provide real-time information to ensure safety processes and protocols are being followed on every clinical unit. Summary reports are overseen by the hospital’s leadership team to inform hazard prevention and control measures that may be needed to prevent future incidents of violence.

Throughout the year, all staff are required to complete annual online training outlining their role in maintaining a healthy and safe environment for both their patients and colleagues. In addition, Southlake requires all frontline staff to complete an annual clinical education program to support staff and patient safety when restraints are used, high alert medications, infection prevention and control measures, and much more. Southlake has also engaged the Safe Management Group to provide specialized training to staff, which more than 1350 individuals have completed to help facilitate a greater level of security in the workplace.

As a result of these initiatives, coupled with the dedication of all staff, the number of incidents has continued to trend down over the last five years.

Safety for Patients

Reducing harm and putting patients on a path to recovery is fundamental to delivering health care. That’s why Southlake sets regular safety targets across our clinical areas to support the delivery of safe patient care.

Our current Top Five Patient Safety priorities focus on:

  • Patient Identification
    • Ensuring those in our care receive the right treatment is critical, which is why Southlake uses a two-person specific identifiers to confirm patients receive the medication, service or procedure intended for them.
  • Medical Reconciliation
    • Knowing when to continue or discontinue taking medication after leaving the hospital is vital to getting better and avoiding a repeat visit. That’s why Southlake has improved processes by deploying a Best Possible Medication Discharge Plan to support patient recovery.
  • Falls Prevention
    • Promoting the use of mobility aids, wearing non-slip socks, and attaching patient identifiers to immediately recognize those unsteady on their feet to avoid doing further harm to reduce a patient’s length of stay.
  • Pressure Injuries
    • Minimize bed sores and other pressure injuries by promoting mobility through the decreased use of incontinence briefs, changing positions, and using proper bed surfaces.
  • Transparent Communication
    • Improve information sharing by providing patient education materials on what to expect based on their unique circumstances to help manage their conditions and treatment plans.

Safety for Visitors

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to fade further into history, Southlake continues to maintain leading infection prevention and control protocols to help stop the spread of infection and keep everyone safe. It’s why the hospital maintains increased masking policies, promotes proper hand hygiene, and supports the use of appropriate personal protective equipment throughout the organization.

Despite the challenges we faced during the course of the pandemic, Southlake team members persevered to be recognized as a Best Practice Spotlight Organization by the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario for adopting leading best practices that include enhancing safety and developing new programs to help keep our visitors safe. In July 2021, Southlake launched the innovative Ambassador Program in partnership with our security services partners. Patient Ambassdors are now available to serve patients in the waitings areas of Southlake’s Emergency Department to help facilitate a more comfortable environment, which helps to proactively de-escalate conflict before it begins. This work helps Southlake Security personnel to maintain a secure environment during around-the-clock coverage.

While Security team members cannot be in all places at all times, they’re aided by real-time alerts through safety pendants provided to all staff. Attached to personnel identification badges, Southlake team members have the ability to call for help in all manner of situations by triggering a personalized alarm that’s relayed to the hospital’s central command centre to dispatch security to their location.

Visitors have access to 24/7 Security personnel too. Safety signage and emergency alert stations which are located in all parking lots to ensure quick response in the event of a crisis. New and updated exterior signage was recently refreshed in all on-site and off-site parking lots to serve as a reminder to stay alert.

Southlake will continue to work collaboratively to promote and maintain a safe environment by working alongside our union partners, York Regional Police and York Region Paramedic Services. We encourage everyone to treat each other with respect and work together to make the hospital the safest space possible for all within its walls.