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Reflections on my first three months as President and CEO

Reflections on my first three months as President and CEO

It’s hard to believe it's been just over three months since I transitioned into my new role as Waypoint's President and CEO. These are challenging but exciting times to take the helm while we're still experiencing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. These last few months I have been truly inspired by the teamwork and solidarity of my colleagues as they strengthen my sense of purpose as a servant leader, and also by the knowledge that each and every one of us is making a difference in the lives of patients, clients and families every day. I am also grateful for our partnerships across the health sector as we continually innovate together in service to our communities.
Dr. Nadiya Sunderji
Dr. Nadiya Sunderji
President and CEO

Over the past few years, I have witnessed hospitals and health service providers from across the province come together to work better as one health care system. I am extremely proud to share that time and again, the Waypoint team has stepped up to collaborate and provide leadership in mental health and addiction services, especially as it relates to supporting our hospital and community partners who have also been challenged by the pandemic, as we work together to reach and support people in real need of help and care.  

Waypoint was one of multiple partners who supported public health to open COVID-19 assessment centres and immunization clinics. We also supported our long-term care partners through the combined expertise of our geriatric medicine and geriatric psychiatry team in the Specialized Geriatric Service, expanded mental health services for families, children and youth, and launched Frontline Wellness, which provides free virtual counselling for healthcare workers, first responders and social service professionals. 

We’ve all read in the news the challenges that emergency departments and smaller hospitals across the province are facing even trying to keep doors open and beds staffed. Waypoint was able to step up and add to our existing 20 acute mental health beds, and we continue to operate 34 acute mental health beds, including the first psychiatric intensive care services in our region, for patients in Simcoe County, Muskoka and across the Ontario Health Central Region. We are hopeful that these beds will be made permanent as they provide an immediate solution to the unmet needs locally and regionally as the pandemic has affected many people’s mental health and strained an already challenged health system. We have also strengthened our physical health care services to support more complex patients with combined mental and physical health challenges here at Waypoint. 

Quote from Dr. Nadiya SunderjiWe innovated in developing a virtual intensive day program to support people living with concurrent addiction and mental health challenges. Grounded in research evidence and incubated during the throes of the pandemic and its disruptions to service delivery, this new virtual program adds to our inpatient treatment program, thus expanding our avenues for meeting people where they’re at and making services accessible to people with different needs.

More recently, we expanded access to electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) from three to five days a week. ECT is a safe and effective treatment and it can be a life-saving for patients who need it due to the severity of their illness or lack of benefit from other treatments, but it requires anesthesia and, when done in acute hospitals it usually uses surgical recovery spaces and nurses. By expanding ECT at Waypoint we are ensuring access to specialized care for our whole region and enabling acute care partners to focus on restoring surgical volumes and reducing wait times. (More information can be found here)

I’m excited to announce that we have just launched Waypoint’s new Urgent Outpatient Psychiatry Consultation service. Having worked in these types of programs for many years before my transition to Waypoint in 2019, I know from experience what a difference it can make in people’s lives, and for other members of their care team, to have rapid access to a specialist when there is urgency. In North Simcoe Muskoka, one in five people visiting the emergency department for a mental health reason has previously been to the ED for their mental health in the past month, so we know there’s a significant unmet need for more effective care and alternatives in the community and across the continuum of care. Waypoint’s new service provides clients with the right care at the right time and place, providing urgent psychiatric consultation to people who have been identified as needing specialized care, but who can be safely discharged home from the emergency department. Our team of experts can provide assessment and initiate treatment. In combination with having reduced our wait time for routine non-urgent consultation from two years to under two months, we hope and expect this new service will not only serve people in need but also alleviate health system pressures on emergency departments by reducing ED visits, repeat ED visits, and some avoidable admissions.

The North Simcoe Muskoka Specialized Geriatric Services continues in their quest to support frail older adults maintain wellness, independence and quality of life in aging. Two projects they've been supporting include the County of Simcoe’s Behaviour Support and Transition Unit at Georgian Village, and future Community-Based Supportive Housing through LOFT Community Services. 

With our 10 partners under the Central Ontario Health Team for Specialized Populations, we continue to collaborate to serve seniors, people with mental health and addictions needs starting with children and youth, and Indigenous people. We are also working on expanded access to structured psychotherapy for people experiencing anxiety and depression. We are excited to see continuous improvement in clinical outcomes and are extremely proud of the team’s work that supports our promise of improving lives.  More people are getting better with their symptoms and well-being improved – that’s definitely something to get excited about! Finally, with our partners we are developing care pathways and implementing quality standards for patients with schizophrenia in hospital, through discharge and transitions, and in the community. Our OHT partnerships will produce regional integrated care pathways co-designed with service users and caregivers, where Waypoint continues to care for the most complex patients in hospital and community partners meet clients’ needs in a coordinated approach. 

In closing, I am thankful for all of our compassionate and skilled staff and leaders, dynamic and expert medical leaders, forward thinking board of directors, and collaborative and perseverant system partners.  I am optimistic and looking forward to a bright future where we continue working with patients, families, staff, volunteers, researchers, policymakers and partners to innovate services and tools that have an impact for people who need mental health and addictions treatment and care.