Jiten Jani (Photo: Katie Cooper)

As 2021 draws to a close, we asked Unity Health Toronto staff and physicians to reflect on the lessons they’ve learned in this unprecedented year and what they’ll take with them into the New Year. Here’s what they said.

Jiten Jani is the inpatient pharmacy lead at St. Joseph’s Health Centre.

One of the lessons I’ve learned over the past year is that when we have a collective goal, when we all work on the same objective at the same time, we can achieve pretty big things. The COVID-19 vaccinations are a perfect example. Our pharmacists and technicians and all the allied health professionals, the vaccination clinic team, all of us just worked together. We made it work; we made it happen. That was a big lesson: trust in the people you work with.

It’s a pretty big task to vaccinate the community at this scale. You’re talking about hand-drawn vaccines provided to tens of thousands of people.

What does it take to plan for this type of endeavor? It takes very good leadership and a community of people who are constantly having conversations with each other.

Nadia Ledachowski and Glenda Bennett (Photo: Katie Cooper)

At the start of the year, before we had even seen the vaccine, we started discussing clinics and how we would open up to our staff and the public. We had to plan everything, from the location, how it would be set up, where the pharmacy would be, and how many people would be working. Then we had to build vaccine protocols to safeguard the administration of the vaccine.

We had to consider storage, transport and the expiry of the vaccines, avoiding waste as well as what kinds of errors could occur and how to avoid making those errors. All the while, our director was determining how much supply we have, and how to share those across St. Michael’s, St. Joe’s, Providence and all the other programs we support without wasting any doses.

We had to look into the logistics of sending vaccine to retirement and long-term care homes, outreach programs, Ontario Health Team partner clinics, pop-up clinics, admitted inpatients, our own Unity Health staff, as well as for people who weren’t ambulatory enough to leave their homes.

There were also large pop-up clinics in the west end, which needed staff to dilute and prep the vaccines in large quantities – we’re talking about thousands per day.

At the hospital, we had to keep ourselves abreast of any new proposed therapies for COVID-19 patients in addition to helping the research team start new studies.

All this was happening through February-March, and on the horizon we see second doses coming, and we know we’re going to go through it all over again.

As daunting a task as it was, at the end of the day you know your ultimate objective as a healthcare worker is to help people. When you see people coming into the clinic, it reinforces your reasons for being in healthcare. When you see two elderly people holding hands, standing and waiting their turn to get vaccinated, it gives you shivers and makes you proud.

My hope for the New Year is to continue building on the relationships we formed over the past year with community partners we otherwise would not have met, and to stay hopeful and resilient.

– As told to Marlene Leung.  This interview has been edited and condensed.