The first time Raj Panchal went to the hospital in more than 60 years, he was being treated for COVID-19.
What began as a mild fever quickly escalated to extreme fatigue, loss of appetite and low blood oxygen levels. When his symptoms worsened it became clear he needed urgent care, so his daughter picked up the phone and called an ambulance. That phone call would begin a long road to recovery.
After four weeks in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Scarborough General Hospital, the 66-year-old was told by his care team he was being transferred to Kingston.
“My first thought was, ‘why are they sending me here?’” Panchal said.
With no family in the area, the thought of being transferred more than 200 kilometres away to continue his fight against COVID-19 was a scary one. Panchal wasn’t the only patient being transferred. With ICUs in the Greater Toronto Area at capacity, Ontario Health had no choice but to move critical care patients to hospitals outside the region.
Providence Care Hospital (PCH) was ready to lend a helping hand. Shortly after Ontario reported its first case of COVID-19 in 2020, the hospital converted a number of clinical and non-clinical spaces, adding more than 200 beds in consult rooms, patient lounges and outpatient spaces, as part of its pandemic response plan.
“This allowed us to accept more patients and help our acute care partners create critical care capacity should the need arise,” said Krista Wells Pearce, Providence Care’s COVID-19 Incident Command Leader. And in the middle of the third wave of the pandemic, those spaces were put into action.
From February 2 to May 21, 2021 PCH admitted over 220 additional patients to assist regional healthcare partners. This meant an increase in regular admissions from Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) as well as those from Lakeridge Health, Campbellford Memorial Hospital and Peterborough Regional Health Center.
“By admitting additional patients, our acute care partners were in a better position to admit out-of-region patients,” Wells Pearce added.
One of those patients was Panchal.
After a few weeks at KHSC, he slowly began to recover and was transferred to PCH for the next step in his rehabilitation journey.
“When Raj arrived he was receiving supplemental oxygen, and was only able to walk short distances of 20 metres before becoming short of breath,” explained Stephen Liu, a Physiotherapist with the hospital’s Complex Medical Management unit. “Since then Raj has progressed significantly.”
And Panchal is grateful for the care he received, so much so that he snapped multiple photos of him with his care team.
“Something that was initially very scary became very positive,” shared Panchal. “They became my family.”
After five weeks at PCH, Panchal was discharged and was finally able to reunite with his family back in Scarborough.