New Partnership Creates Safe Spaces for U of T Medical Residents and Fellows to Stay During COVID-19 Pandemic 

Mar 26, 2020
Author: 
Gabrielle Giroday
Glen Bandiera

“The more health care workers we can keep healthy, the better the system can respond.”  

In a time of pandemic, medical trainees working on the frontlines may need somewhere to stay away from their families, to protect others from exposure to the disease.  
 
For that reason, University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine is working with StayWell, a charity that has suites in downtown Toronto that are usually used for patients who are visiting the city to receive complex medical care. 
 
In light of COVID-19, the units are being repurposed so that medical residents and fellows can live in the suites while they are working in hospitals treating patients, and if they need to self-isolate. Medical trainees may request accommodations directly through www.staywell.charity, or by emailing info@staywell.charity 

Dr. Glen Bandiera, the faculty’s associate dean of post-graduate medical education, says the university will be cost-sharing with trainees to help offset the cost of the units, so residents and fellows can have access to somewhere safe to stay. 
 
There are approximately 3,600 Faculty of Medicine post-graduate residents and fellows who train and provide healthcare services across a network of almost 30 health care institutions across the province. 
 
“The health care workers – including the residents and fellows – are under a lot of stress and I think they’re demonstrating very solid altruism by wanting to isolate away from their family and other people in their life. To have a place that is comfortable and feels like home, where they can access their digital social networks, it’s just one small thing we can do to help with that stress and anxiety,” says Bandiera, who is Associate Dean of Post Graduate Medical Education, a professor at University of Toronto’s faculty of medicine and staff emergency physician at Unity Health Toronto.  
 
“This resource benefits not only the person in isolation, but also the people they’re living with, who might be health care providers. The more health care workers we can keep healthy, the better the system can respond.” 

He says in other jurisdictions, at the peak of the pandemic, up to 20 per cent of health care providers were not at work -- some because they needed to isolate from others after being exposed to COVID-19.    

Bandiera says part of practicing physical distancing and providing support to those helping battle the pandemic means making sure health care providers in training have somewhere safe to go. 
 
“We realize that not only do health care workers have an obligation to society to distance themselves from other people, we recognize that health care workers are at a greater risk of contracting and carrying the virus. So, we want to make sure that we have resources for them to be able to self-isolate appropriately away from other people, and not spread the virus to friends or family, or other health care workers. It’s really important for us to be able to step up and provide some sort of alternative accommodation.”  

The resource became available to residents and fellows this week. Each resident or fellow who decides to access the resource will have to pay a cost, which is being cost-shared by the university, at a “heavily discounted” rate from StayWell.    
“Their units are highly applicable and very appropriate for short-term use for residents and fellows who are providing care in our hospitals, who have to be isolated for periods of time, either because they are being investigated for COVID-19, or they are recovering from the disease,” says Bandiera. 
 
“They may not want to do that in the place they normally live, for fear of putting others at risk, especially vulnerable relatives or friends.”  

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