Public health authorities declare outbreak in residences over
On Tuesday, April 13, Region of Waterloo public health declared the COVID-19 outbreak in all University of Waterloo residence buildings to be over.
"By following public health guidelines and increased safety measures put in place in response to this outbreak, our campus community—particularly students currently living in residence—have allowed public health to take this step," wrote Feridun Hamdullahpur in a memo circulated to the campus community yesterday. "While the outbreak is officially over, it remains critical that we all continue to follow the advice of public health officials. Please continue to do your part and follow the province’s recent stay-at-home orders, which include remaining at home unless leaving for necessities such as groceries or health-care services."
Effective Tuesday, April 13, please note the following adjusted safety protocols for residence buildings:
- Residents should continue self-monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms and symptomatic testing is available at the Testing Assessment Centre at Health Services.
- Access control will continue to be managed through designated entrances requiring a WatCard or key, however, security personnel will no longer be situated at the entrances.
- Our existing no guest policy remains unchanged. Students must continue to socialize with those within their household (that is, within their suite or traditional-style residence floor). The only individuals in a room or suite should be the residents who live there.
- As we are still in a stay-at-home order, all common use space such as lounges and study rooms will continue to remain closed until the end of the term.
"Please continue to follow all public health guidelines and seek testing if you are showing symptoms of COVID-19," the president writes. "Testing is available on campus for University students, employees, postdocs and family members living in the same household. To book a test, please use the online registration form."
"Please continue to follow all University safety protocols. As we approach a period of heightened uncertainty, it is also important to take care of yourselves and each other. Help is available if you need it."
"Thank you for your continued perseverance, patience and support as we all do our part to stop the spread."
Businesses and entrepreneurs are changing the game for digital health
This article was originally published on Waterloo News.
To Dr. Louise Schaper, Amazon’s plan to start selling health-care services is a gamechanger.
“If you can afford to pay for it great, but what happens to people who can’t pay for private health care?” she asked.
At Waterloo’s latest Innovation Summit on the future of health innovation, Dr. Schaper’s keynote address emphasized the need to embrace creative and collaborative approaches to make health-care services available to everyone.
“In order for us to invent a health-care system that is truly patient centered, truly innovative, one that delivers a higher quality of care … every single health-care organization is going to have to rewrite their business plan,” said Dr. Schaper, CEO of Australasian Institute of Digital Health.
As the “fourth wave” of digital health continues, society needs to think beyond new technology and seek non-traditional routes between industry and business, alongside shaping government policy that is “pro-innovation, but also pro-patient.”
She noted that hosting a “training day” for a new electronic medical records software program for workers isn’t integration, but rather health-care professionals need to be part of the process from the very beginning, with an emphasis on upskilling the workforce whether it comes to front-line care or the back-end jobs supporting the delivery of care.
COVID-19 has spurred investment in innovation
The pandemic has fueled innovation across businesses and industries. It’s placed unparalleled demands on modern health-care systems, with hybrid models being widely adopted to respond to the crisis. In response, society is seeing businesses, investors, government and health-care providers collaborate in new ways, at an exponential pace. According to industry leaders, these efforts need to keep going.
“During the pandemic, we found this huge rush of funding, focus and interest on one particular topic,” said Jun Axup, chief science officer and partner at IndieBio and a one of three panelists at the Summit. “Both public and private funding, public engagement became the focus bridge to figuring out problems we need to solve. The hope is that this translates to a focus on what’s broken and how the problems can be solved.”
Speaking from the investor’s side, Jun Axup thinks we should “absolutely take more risks” when it comes to investing in technology that might be the solution out of this pandemic.
Brian Lewis, president and CEO, Medtech Canada, added that for more innovation to happen in the area of health technology, the Canadian health-care system budgets needs to remove funding silos and mandate procurement for purchase price minimization.
“What needs to happen, is funds need to be put forward and we need to reconfigure the provincial health-care system to look at downstream value of new innovation,” said Lewis. “The system needs to evolve.”
Are we willing to take bolder risks deploying health technologies? To protect us from reverting to old ways after the pandemic, Brian Lewis says it’s important to “keep our awareness up” to allow our health-care systems change for the better.
Collaboration is the strategic response to the pandemic
While there’s still more work to do, the collaborative efforts across many industries are paying off, even if it means traveling into unfamiliar territory in usually risk-adverse environments.
“We are at a very difficult transition right now,” said Catherine Burns, executive director, Health Initiatives and Sponsored Research at the University of Waterloo.
She explains that we’re going from a system that is very solid and very risk adverse to an environment where technology has a little more risk. Burns says it becomes a question of trust: how much risk is acceptable?”
Recognizing the new Innovation Arena, located in the City of Kitchener’s Innovation District, Hamdullahpur highlighted how the space will amplify Waterloo region’s health-tech sector.
“Drawing on our strengths in health research, enabling connections between research and industry, and fostering student-driven solutions and entrepreneurship, we are uniquely positioned to lead in this exciting space,” said Feridun Hamdullahpur, Waterloo’s president and vice-chancellor.
Housing Velocity, Waterloo’s flagship entrepreneurship program, the Innovation Arena will streamline commercialization pathways for businesses, fast-track delivery of health technologies and drive Canada’s next wave of economic growth.
Collaboration, investment, upskilling our workforce — and even taking risks —are the ingredients required to transform and improve patient care.
Q and A with the experts: Long-term care after a year of COVID-19
The University of Waterloo has a number of experts available for comment on various aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What has changed a year after COVID-19 first wreaked havoc on long-term care homes last spring? Paul Stolee, director of the Network for Aging Research and a professor in the School of Public Health and Health Systems, examines some of the issues associated with long-term care during the pandemic.
What role can health technology play in supporting older adults at home and in long-term care?
There are many ways that technology could support the care and quality of life of older people. Some examples are digital technologies to support social interaction, social robots, wearable technologies and other monitoring systems, artificial intelligence models to support clinical decision-making and many others.
For these technologies to have an impact, though, they need to be adopted and used, and this is where many obstacles and barriers arise. In the context of the pandemic, a digital device – such as an iPad – could connect socially isolated long-term care residents with their families or facilitate virtual care provision between providers and older adults.
However, in an underfunded system, who will pay for the device and the internet service? With staffing shortages, who will help the older person learn to use the device and set up the connection with the family member or provider? For these and more complex technologies to have an impact, other challenges facing the long-term care system – like funding, staffing, facilities – also need to be addressed.
What lessons have we learned when it comes to protecting aged populations during a health crisis?
The first is that we should not wait for a crisis, like the COVID-19 pandemic, to address persisting deficiencies of the health and social supports available to older adults. Secondly, the pandemic has exposed the weaknesses of the long-term care sector caused by chronic underfunding, understaffing and outdated facilities. It is very discouraging that despite promises to defend long-term care residents after the first wave, the second wave resulted in a greater number of deaths.
Another lesson is that we need to recognize and support the essential role of family caregivers. Restricting family members from visiting their loved ones in long-term care homes may have been a short-term necessity for public health reasons, but caused heartbreaking social isolation of residents, some of whom died without their families with them.
A less obvious consequence was the loss of the direct care that family members provide in understaffed homes, as well as the oversight they provide on the quality of care. This exposed a major system shortcoming and an over-reliance on family caregivers to supplement lacking supports and services, contributing to caregiver burnout.
A fourth lesson is that we cannot look at one part of the care system in isolation. Although the narrative surrounding the care of older people has focused on long-term care, it is important to acknowledge that most older Canadians are in fact community-dwelling. For older Canadians who are aging in place, an integrated system of community care (including primary care, home care, and community support services) is necessary.
What has to happen before some semblance of normalcy can be restored for people living in long-term care homes?
Let’s hope that we don’t see a return to “normal.” The normal state of things in long-term care – chronic underfunding and understaffing, outdated facilities – is unacceptable and this has been widely recognized for years. I hope that the pandemic is finally a catalyst to improve our care of older people.
Paul Stolee is a Professor in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences. His research interests include challenges experienced by older patients as they transition across care settings, strategies that can foster greater care coordination and health system integration, and patient and citizen engagement in decision-making.
The 19 April 2021 Senate meeting will be held via Microsoft Teams videoconference, according to a note from the Secretariat. Guests are welcome to join the open session of the meeting similar to a normal "in-person" Senate meeting. "If you would like to attend the meeting as a guest observer, please contact Emily Schroeder to request to join the meeting," says the Secretariat announcement. "All requests must be received by Friday 16 April 2021. The agenda is posted on the Senate webpage."
The Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo's General Meeting will take place on Friday, April 16, from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. "What happens at a general meeting?" FAUW asks. "We tell you about what we’re working on, you get lots of time to ask questions and suggest other things for us to do, and you vote on important things like our budget for the next year or changes to the FAUW Constitution." An email has been sent to FAUW voting members with the agenda.