Community Collaboration: COVID-19 Pandemic

At SRCHC, we work to maximize positive community action through collective impact. During the last year, this has meant being nimble, thoughtful and collaborative in order to reduce the transmission of COVID through testing, support for outbreak management in congregate settings, help for individuals and their families who test positive for COVID, and vaccinations for community members.

In March, 2020, our team came together with staff from community health centres and Michael Garron Hospital (MGH) to host regular meetings for staff working in shelters and other congregate living programs. In a pandemic, knowledge is power; we helped organizations develop plans to reduce the spread of covid through infection, prevention and control measures. We also visited sites with suspected COVID cases to test residents and provide outbreak management support. When vaccine became available, the SRCHC team worked with our partners at MGH to provide mobile, low-barrier vaccine clinics in some of the highest risk settings in east Toronto.   Kate Mason, Research Coordinator, organized the outreach and Bernadette Lettner, RN, rode her bike, motorcycle or camper van to bring COVID-19 vaccine to shelters, group homes, supervised injection sites and other congregate settings.

Coordination support, teamwork and partnership development have allowed SRCHC to build programs quickly with support that is easy for community members to access. In November, to help reduce the spread of COVID, we starting working with a team at MGH to run pop up COVID assessment sites. We hosted 25 drop-in clinics and tested over 860 people. During this time, we received a grant from MGH to develop a program to provide case management support to those individuals testing positive for COVID. The case management team members came from four organizations: East End Community Health Centre, The Neighbourhood Organization, SRCHC and MGH. Many of the members have never met in person but, over the last five months, they have worked over Zoom to plan the program. We have a sense of shared purpose that, as COVID recedes, we will get back to better.   As one partner noted, “We have been able to leverage different funding pools and resources to extend the care network and reach more people in need of support. The work we have done around the COVID Response Team has laid the foundation for other work.”

As well, the team provided regular phone check-ins, connecting clients to contactless food and grocery delivery such as those available at The Neighbourhood Organization and the Scarborough Centre for Healthy Communities. It helped assess clients’ financial needs to assist them with government supports like the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit. 98% clients who completed an evaluation said that the supports they received helped them to better cope with their COVID diagnosis and 97% said the project helped them to self-isolate. One client noted, “It was … absolutely fantastic! I was very impressed and I cannot speak highly enough. My friend lives in a different neighbourhood and did not receive any followup. Groceries being dropped off was a life saver. No reason to have to leave the house – absolutely brilliant! Life was a little more pleasant and reassuring, being able to ask questions no matter how ridiculous they might be.  Also, very educational as well. I learned a lot that I did not know about! Thanks a million!”

To learn more about the program, see: