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New innovation lab 'the future' of Collingwood hospital

‘Our volumes are going up and the complexities are going up in emergency care,’ says CGMH’s chief of emergency medicine during Gather Round panel discussion on struggles and successes at Collingwood hospital coming out of COVID-19

A new innovation lab is in the works for Collingwood General and Marine Hospital (CGMH).

The announcement was made at the hospital’s ‘Gather Round’ fundraising event at Simcoe Street Theatre Friday night, where the sold-out crowd of hospital supporters heard about successes achieved and struggles faced coming out of the pandemic.

As part of the panel discussion, the hospital’s chief of staff, Dr. Michael Lisi, said the new Innovation Lab project began prior to the pandemic, but had been put on hold out of necessity.

“Prior to the pandemic, we were working with staff to look at incubators and how to bring innovation through private products and integrate them into the health-care field,” said Lisi. “The Innovation Lab will be facilitating some of these ideas and activities through digital health and artificial intelligence.

“That’s the future. We have to lead that charge. I’m very excited about that one,” he said.

Moderator Jory-Pritchard Kerr welcomed a hospital panel which included Lisi, chief of emergency medicine Dr. Gregory Devet, president and chief executive officer Michael Lacroix, simulation program director Dr. Jesse Guscott and chief of obstetrics and gynecology Dr. Gillian Yeates.

When asked about managing burnout across the hospital both during and post-pandemic, Devet said nurses are the cornerstone of the health-care system and with staff shortages, CGMH is feeling the strain.

“That stable person who is shepherding you through (emergency), is a nurse. It’s an exceedingly important job,” he said. “It’s a hard thing to talk about. If our emerg(ency department) was a roofing company, we would have stopped quoting or quoted really high to avoid some of this work.”

“New people are moving here all the time. They have emergencies, and primary care issues as well. Our volumes are going up and the complexities are going up in emergency care,” said Devet.

“The difficulties with shortages in any workplace is it can make it hard to excel,” he added.

Lacroix said to residents who want to know how they can help, a simple gesture to the health-care workers in their lives can make a difference.

“A thank-you goes a long way,” he said.

Yeates talked about the success of the hospital’s collaboration with SickKids launched in 2021, where the hospital can connect with the experts at SickKids to consult on child patient cases through a secure video link in real time.

“We were the first in the country to do this, thanks to the funds from donors,” said Yeates. “If I have a baby that I have resuscitated and I need advice for... I can call and be hooked up with SickKids.”

Stories of successes shared during the event included information about the Headstrong pilot program, which was started in 2022 as a partnership between the hospital and the Collingwood Youth Centre. The program, which was made possible due to a private donation by Marilyn Knowles, connects youth with psychotherapists to meet for mental health appointments in a designated space at the centre.

The program is currently fully booked and helps between 20 and 25 youth per week.

Also highlighted was the story of three-year-old Jax Davenport and her family, who moved to Collingwood from Guelph due to the exceptional care she received at CGMH for Supraventricular Tachycardia. The Davenport family has since run regular fundraisers for the hospital.

When looking ahead at the future of health care, Lacroix pointed to collaborations through the South Georgian Bay Family Health Team.

“Our vision as a collective is to be the healthiest community in Canada,” said Lacroix. “We know, as an organization, we can’t be doing it all.”

Lisi referenced the development of the Poplar Regional Health and Wellness Village project, and the new opportunities it could bring to the community.

“This will facilitate teaching centres, and lecture halls and simulation centres that are state-of-the-art,” said Lisi. “Collingwood is already known for our education. People from all over Ontario come here, and that’s the future we rely upon.”

“We want to be recognized as Ontario’s centre for rural learning,” he said.

For more information on the work of the Collingwood and General Marine Hospital Foundation, click here.