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 Deanna Comfort, Manager of Decision Support and Case Costing.
The work of Deanna Comfort and her Decision Support team may not be immediately recognizable by patients and families.
But the accurate, timely information and analysis Deanna and her staff produce every day has a big impact in supporting our healthcare teams and improving the quality of care for the people we serve.
“We may not be front-line healthcare providers, but we are providing tools and information so that the best decisions can be made related to care,” says Deanna, Niagara Health’s Manager of Decision Support and Case Costing. “Everybody is in this together, no matter what you do.”
The team provides analytical data for our programs and services to help them make informed decisions, including statistics about patient flow, the number of beds in use and data to help our teams best allocate resources. They also produce daily reports to the Ministry of Health on patient and program activity at Niagara Health.
During the pandemic, they are reporting on a daily basis many statistics related to COVID-19 for Niagara Health leaders and to the Ministry of Health.
Deanna, a Chartered Professional Accountant, has worked in various other roles in the Finance Department during her 29-year career with Niagara Health, including Accounting, Payroll and Accounts Payable.
Describe your team’s role as part of Niagara Health’s response to COVID-19?
With the pandemic, our team was brought in very quickly to provide information to the Niagara Health leadership team on a wide range of areas. We provide an overall dashboard for the team to be able to monitor what’s happening in the hospital on a daily basis and make decisions based on that. That includes reporting seven days a week on a number of data elements, including the number of patients being tested for COVID-19 at Niagara Health, the volume and location of COVID patients receiving care at Niagara Health, and how much that is changing day by day. We also provide other information like bed availability, Emergency Department volumes, surgical wait lists, staff and physician absence due to COVID-related illness or self-isolation, how much personal protective equipment we have in stock, and more. We continue to work on the analysis of data as services begin to re-open to ensure we understand the impact of the decisions being made. Also, the Ministry of Health requires daily information with respect to things like our COVID Assessment Centres and the patient population that they are serving, along with how many patients we are caring for in our hospitals who are COVID positive or suspected positive. It gives the Ministry a fulsome picture each day of what it looks like from a COVID perspective.
What has been the most challenging part professionally working during the pandemic?
A big challenge is the fact our team is working from home. It’s not as easy when you’re not able to see people or be in the same office. We’ve overcome that by having a daily half-hour virtual team huddle to talk about things everyone is working on to make sure we stay on the same page and that we are providing the best data that we can.
What struck you most about your work in the early days of the pandemic?
It was how everything happened very fast. Whether it was requirements for reporting or changes that had to be made, our team was able to provide what we needed to in a timely manner. It was challenging, but our team showed their adaptability and flexibility to get the job done.
Describe your team’s overall performance during the pandemic?
They’re not afraid to jump in and fulfil a need no matter what it takes. If it means doing something seven days a week for a while, then that’s what they do. They also work extremely well collaboratively. If one is struggling with something, they don’t hesitate to reach out to someone else for help or clarification. Even though we are separated physically, they are a very cohesive team and continue to work extremely well together.
What’s the most challenging part for you personally during the pandemic?
It’s the loss of a social connection with family and friends. I’m lucky to have my 23-year-old daughter, who is completing her Master’s program, currently living at home, so she is close to me. I am also lucky to have my mother living with us. However, she has health issues, so I continuously worry about ensuring she is safe.
How do you unwind after work?
Exercise is my best way to get rid of any stress. I have a treadmill or I get outside and walk in my neighbourhood. It enables me to unwind, recharge, and prepare for what might be coming tomorrow.
Read more In It Together stories about members of our team here.