April 29, 2021
Baycrest is home to 1,100 older adults who receive world-class care and support daily from expert clinicians and interdisciplinary care teams. It is also the nexus for emerging forms of aging and brain health innovations for seniors care that have begun to reach far and wide – locally, across Canada and internationally.
Overseeing much of this new wave of future-forward aging care is Scott Ovenden, Executive VP of clinical programs. He is responsible for Hospital Services, Ambulatory Care, Long term Care, Client Relations, Quality and Risk. He’s also extremely excited about how continued support from the community for Baycrest is translating into discoveries that will pave the way to better aging, and create eldercare solutions that will help everyone – no matter what age and stage of life – to no longer fear the aging process. Instead, people will see a future of hope and optimism, where diseases like dementia are a thing of the past.
The following is an interview with Scott, edited for length and clarity.
Q: Scott, what has the support from our community during the pandemic meant to Baycrest?
Scott Ovenden: The reality is, we've been under pressure since the beginning of the pandemic given that this part of Ontario has some of the highest community positivity rates, which makes the risk of COVID-19 coming on our campus a consistent threat. It makes me think of the saying: “The strongest steel is forged in the hottest fires.” Even though the province moved to an Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) ”Hub” model during wave 2 of the pandemic, Baycrest already had these critical structures in place for decades. In addition to the exceptional work of our staff, it’s in large part thanks to our community leaders and their support in the past and through today, that we are able to be ahead of others in this IPAC regard. It really helped us manage through COVID-19.
Q: How else has this community support been demonstrated to you?
Scott Ovenden: It’s a lineage of visionary support from our community. For instance, very few long-term care homes are constructed with all private rooms, as is the case with our Apotex Centre, Jewish Home for the Aged. Building a facility that way didn’t strictly make sense from a long-term care funding perspective; but during the pandemic, we saw just how that investment made by our predecessors has been an incredible boon for us as an organization. Not just from an IPAC standpoint, but also from a quality of life perspective. We were able to physically distance residents in their own rooms, which was a key factor in preventing major outbreaks at Baycrest – protecting everyone, staff, families and caregivers alike.
It’s all part of a bigger theme, which is that community support helps Baycrest adapt to changing needs. For instance, creating new service delivery models and pivoting to virtual care was just a phenomenal accomplishment. For example, we were able to facilitate more than 3,000 virtual visits this year.
Q: How would you define Baycrest’s role within the Long-Term care sector
Scott Ovenden: As we know, the Long-Term care sector was one of the hardest hit during the pandemic. Baycrest’s participation in regional and provincial tables has been important. Our executive team, senior leaders and many of our physicians think that we're potentially on a cusp of a transformation in long-term care. The model of long term care delivery in Ontario has been very static for a long time.
COVID-19 has shown us there is a different way we must conceptualize care. And again, it loops back to what I said earlier about visionary support from our community. Things like investment in private rooms and overall care home building design, will be looked at much closer across the sector. Additionally, our related efforts through our outreach teams, and other ambulatory services, have allowed us to care for long-term care-eligible individuals in their homes without the need for them to move to a nursing home.
There's a strong likelihood that the traditional definition of long-term care is going to change as we move forward.
Q: What comes next for Baycrest?
Scott Ovenden: After we move beyond the pandemic, I anticipate Baycrest’s role evolving. We will be at the leading edge of transformative change in the sector. I believe we will be an active, key participant and relied upon to support the province through this new period.
At the end of the day, the success we’ve had at navigating COVID-19 really comes down to the care, the professionalism, dedication and hard work of all our staff. They are at the heart of what we do and how we influence change in long-term care. Yet again, this is all thanks to our Baycrest community.
Our donor community is already well-aware of our expertise around brain health and aging. I think that this is also becoming recognized by government. Our ability to attract and retain our skilled staff, physicians and leaders boils down to the support of our donors. We could not be the leaders we are today without the help they’ve continuously and consistently given. We can’t thank them enough.
Q: If you had your wish for what you would like community support for going forward, what would it be?
Scott Ovenden: Well, it isn’t the most exciting request, but one of the main needs of Baycrest is the ability to keep our physical infrastructure running at optimal capacity. As the saying goes, “keeping the lights on” is a foundational need of any organization. So capital investment in our facilities is clearly a focus and is absolutely critical, with the goal of ensuring the long-term safety of our residents, patients and staff.
Q: Beyond that, how does Baycrest impact the future of aging care in Canada?
Scott Ovenden: The future is going to be different for long-term care and it’s very exciting to look at how we will be involved in new integrated care delivery models. In the past, long-term care homes were relatively separate from the rest of the healthcare system.
Baycrest is helping to pioneer and influence the philosophy around how to best deliver care, both in a structured setting like what we have at Baycrest in our Apotex Centre, Jewish Home for the Aged, and also with aging-in-place care models. One can inform the other.
We look forward to working with our supportive community to bring forth all Baycrest has to offer to the benefit of older adults everywhere.