This is part of a series of stories profiling members of the Niagara Health team and the work they are doing as part of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Meet Amanda Westwood, a Director of Patient Care.
Amanda Westwood has always been a big believer in the power of partnership.
In her 18 years in healthcare, she has seen first-hand the importance of working together to improve the health and wellbeing of patients.
And that has never been more evident for Amanda than during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amanda has an integrated or dual role with Niagara Health and the Local Health Integration Network (LHIN).
As a Director of Patient Care, she leads the discharge planning teams for Niagara Health. She also manages the LHIN care coordinators for Niagara Health and Hotel Dieu Shaver Health and Rehabilitation Centre, who help patients' transition from hospital to community, ensuring they have the appropriate supports in place to keep them safe in the community.
Amanda and her team had an integral role in preparing Niagara Health in the early days of the pandemic, and she recently assumed a new position helping to lead our response to support long-term care and retirement homes impacted by COVID-19.
PREPARING FOR THE PANDEMIC
Vital to Niagara Health’s planning for the pandemic was freeing up hospital beds for the potential influx of COVID-19 patients. Our St. Catharines Site was designated for COVID-19 positive patients.
The work included identifying patients who could be safely discharged, at the earliest opportunity, with the appropriate home care and community supports in place.
It was a massive effort involving Amanda, working alongside Niagara Health’s Director of Access and Patient Flow Jeanette Bulgin, and many other members of the NH team and partner organizations.
A big focus for Amanda’s team was Alternate Level of Care (ALC) patients in the hospital. Like other hospitals, Niagara Health cares for a number of patients who no longer need hospital care and could be safely discharged with appropriate supports, including home care or admission to a long-term care bed in the community. They wait in hospital for supports and services to become available in the community.
“We knew we had to create acute-care capacity in the hospitals,” says Amanda, who started her career as a social worker and has a Master’s of Social Work, with a focus on community development policy. “It was about identifying all of the opportunities for patients to be safely discharged back into the community or to alternate level of care settings, which could include retirement homes and long-term care homes. Some patients at the St. Catharines Site were also safely moved to our other Niagara Health sites or to Hotel Dieu Shaver, our partners in care.”
Key to the team’s work was constant communication with patients and families to discuss options for a safe discharge.
“It was a very focused review of all patients and having very in-depth conversations with patients and families to explore any opportunity and to think outside of the box around a potentially different discharge destination or an enhanced support plan for discharge,” she says. “Our team worked closely with patients and families to look at every possible option for discharge and enhancing the supports to be able to get these patients back safely into their homes or another setting in the community.”
Amanda has high praise for the NH discharge planners and LHIN care coordinators for working together in a short time to safely discharge patients and ensure they were supported in the community.
“They are amazing teams and work together day to day. But through this, they really stepped up to the plate, came together and worked tirelessly to achieve the goal that we had in place,” she says. “Although this is their day-to-day work, it was taking what they do and condensing it. We had two weeks to reduce our number of ALC patients in the hospital by half. Where we would normally have 150 patients across all of our sites at Niagara Health that are designated as requiring alternate level of care, we reduced that number to half. The work our Niagara Health discharge planners and the LHIN care coordinators did in such a short time frame was absolutely incredible.”
SUPPORTING OUR VULNERABLE CITIZENS
While her regular responsibilities continue, Amanda has taken on another role during the pandemic. She is part of the team providing reinforcements in a number of ways to help protect our most vulnerable citizens from the spread of COVID-19 and support those working in long-term care and retirement homes in Niagara.
In late April, the provincial government announced a number of measures, including an Emergency Order for hospitals and other organizations to support long-term care and retirement homes heavily impacted by COVID-19.
Niagara Health has taken a leadership role in this humanitarian response, working with our community partners from public health, home and community care, primary care, EMS and long-term care.
Amanda is responsible for leading a team to provide staffing support for long-term care and retirement homes when needed, like in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak. This support has included:
Mobilizing special teams to go into long-term care and retirement homes to share their expertise in outbreak management, including education in infection prevention and control measures and use of personal protective equipment.
Redeploying healthcare workers from Niagara Health and community partner organizations on a temporary basis to provide expert advice or to support long-term care and retirement home staffing needs where possible.
“My job in facilitating the staffing when homes require it is to reach out to our partners in long-term care and work closely with them on their staffing needs,” she says. “At the beginning, our team members were reaching out to our service-provider partners in our region and assessing their ability to provide care to these homes in the event we needed to call them for support. All of that planning was done in a short time. Everyone stepped up and worked together, recognizing a need and responding immediately.”
Amanda says the work has been rewarding.
“It has meant a lot to be able to partner with the long-term care homes and support a vulnerable population in our community. To be able to keep residents in their own home environment is so significant,” she says.
The response has proven once again for Amanda the importance of partnerships and working together as one team.
“It has been a true community response,” she says. “Everyone was so solution-focused. That’s one thing that has really stuck out for me during the pandemic: Everyone is coming with solutions. There is not talk of, ‘We can’t do it.’ There is only talk of, ‘How are we going to do this?’ It has been impressive.”
Read more In It Together stories about our team here.