Throughout the pandemic, unhoused people in Ontario have been disproportionately impacted by COVID with 20X greater hospitalization rates and 5X greater mortality. Along with dozens of our community health, shelter, municipal and hospital partners, ICHA responded to the pandemic by collaboratively developing and delivering critical interdisciplinary clinical care and population health supports to isolation facilities, hotel shelters, and encampments. This was in addition to our established clinical programs at over 55 clinical sites throughout the GTA. In the past 12 months, over 6,000 clients received care in the isolation and shelter hotels that were set up by the City and homelessness services organizations in response to the pandemic, and more than 5,000 COVID vaccines were provided to people experiencing homelessness. Beyond Toronto, ICHA has successfully advocated for increased health care, shelter and housing resources for people experiencing homelessness across the province and country.
As ICHA’s original Ministry of Health pandemic funding reaches its planned end this week, we would like to share our admiration and gratitude for the collective commitment, professionalism and care that our interdisciplinary teams and ICHA staff have provided over the last 2 years, and celebrate the tremendous, positive impact it has had on the vulnerable populations we support. Building on ICHA’s foundations in providing care to unhoused people for over 15 years, these programs have demonstrated just how critical fully interdisciplinary nursing and physician services are – in addition to the peer, harm reduction and case management support provided by collaborating partners – to improving the health and lives of people facing the crisis of homelessness.
Building on these collective experiences of what models of care best improve health, experiences of care, and health system performance for unhoused people, we have worked tirelessly with our community health and hospital partners to ensure that Ministry of Health and Ontario Health support for our regular interdisciplinary nursing work will continue after the end of our pandemic funding this month. As a result, we have received confirmation of Ministry of Health funding that enables us to sustain our nursing programs and continuity of client support.
Transitions after such long, challenging and complex initiatives are always immensely difficult, and we want to express our deepest appreciation to everyone involved in this work. The 43 predominantly casual nurses not continuing with ICHA for this next phase of work were particularly invaluable in supporting our Omicron wave response by stepping up when they could to bolster surge capacity at the sites we support, generally providing a shift a week, alongside full-time work they were doing elsewhere in the system. While many have not worked with ICHA recently as surge needs diminished, we are so grateful to them for any amount of time they have been able to contribute, and to all of the nurses who supported this work, for their dedication to meeting the dynamic needs of the pandemic.
The entire nursing team has had a profound impact on their clients, first and foremost, but also on each other, their interdisciplinary teams and community and hospital partners, and should feel proud of all they have accomplished. We are honoured to have shared in this work and look forward to pressing ahead as we all strive to build a health system that generates truly equitable health impacts through innovative, efficient and compassionately delivered models of care.
ICHA Leadership Team