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A child with medium-skin tone. They are wearing a mask, a black sweater and a grey t-shirt. The adult beside them has light skin-tone and brown hair. They are wearing a mask, a blue t-shirt and a white sweater.

Holland Bloorview provides leadership in provincial pandemic response

As a leader in pediatric care, Holland Bloorview supported the province in multiple ways during the most tumultuous time in healthcare history.

From the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and always informed by the voices and experiences of Holland Bloorview families, supporting and safeguarding clients, families and staff was embedded in every decision we made. We focused on advocating on behalf of clients, families and healthcare workers for system-wide change while ensuring our hospital was as safe as possible to continue delivering quality programs and services. When vaccines became available, we stepped up to provide a safe, fully-accessible, sensory- and family-friendly environment for children and youth with disabilities or complex care needs to get vaccinated.

Advocating for our children and families

The pandemic has been tough for everyone, but especially for children whose physical, mental and developmental health have suffered. Holland Bloorview worked closely with our partners in the Children's Health Coalition (CHC), a collective of children's health organizations across Ontario, to advocate for policies, services and funding to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic on Ontario’s children.

The pandemic presented important decisions to parents and caregivers, and Holland Bloorview was there to support them. In addition to one-on-one with families, the CHC’s “Parents, Have You Done Your Homework?” campaign provided parents with facts, resources and trusted information about COVID-19 vaccination, helping them to make informed choices about vaccinating their kids. Speaking directly to the government, we continued to advocate through the CHC for the safe reopening of schools in Ontario through testing, masking and vaccination of all eligible populations and called upon the incoming provincial government to Make Kids Count by investing $1 billion in children’s health care.

Supporting & shaping Ontario’s pandemic response

Sitting at a variety of local, regional and provincial tables and committees, Holland Bloorview helped shape Ontario’s pandemic response from the very start. Holland Bloorview staff have brought voice to and influenced everything, from family and caregiver presence policies, to the provincial approach to childhood vaccinations. Here is a sampling of the many tables Holland Bloorview engaged with: 

  • Ontario Health-Toronto teaching and education table
  • Ontario Health-Toronto region hospital operations table
  • Ontario Health paediatric COVID response and recovery table
  • Ontario Health Pediatric critical care surge readiness table
  • Children’s COVID-19 vaccine table

Providing opportunities for vaccination and testing

For children with disabilities and medical complexity, COVID-19 testing and vaccination can be stressful. We stepped up to provide accessible and family-friendly opportunities to help kids and families stay safe.

In partnership with Toronto Public Health, Holland Bloorview hosted its first on-site vaccine clinic for children and youth in 2021. Youth and adults with disabilities accessed a sensory-friendly, family-friendly and fully-accessible environment. Over 840 kids and youth rolled up their sleeves and got vaccinated, and as of March 2022, over 1000 doses were administered at 13 clinics.

“This pandemic has taught us all that we need to work together to make hard things possible,” says Anthony Danial, collaborative practice leader at Holland Bloorview. “The opportunity to work with our amazing partners at Toronto Public Health and our extraordinary staff at Holland Bloorview made it possible for some of the most vulnerable kids and families to be vaccinated.”

“Everyone was wonderful, kind and accommodating,” said one caregiver. “It was the best experience we could have had!”

We also joined forces with the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and launched a COVID-19 testing centre for children with medical complexity and children with developmental conditions that tested over 1,800 people.

The impact of Holland Bloorview during the pandemic is summed up by COVID-19 response co-chair and vice president experience and transformation, Diane Savage: “There is still work to do as we come together with other children’s healthcare organizations, collaborate with family leaders and advocate for our clients and families. The groundwork that we’ve helped lay is paving the way for a better future for all.”