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Frontline workers photographed at St. Paul's Hospital in downtown Vancouver, BC. Photo credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward.
Research + Innovation

Just look how far we’ve journeyed together

by Kris Wallace


They say the days are long but the years are short. Except this past year. Not only were the days some of the longest ever, but the year…well, it was long, too.

We made it through devastating loss and unprecedented challenges. And we did it without a map, without precedent, without hesitation. Today, thanks to the inspiring support of our donors, our frontline staff, and everyone working behind the scenes, we can look back on our resiliency and resourcefulness as an incredible silver lining.

Our amazing lab

The lab at St. Paul’s became the first in Canada with fast, fully-automated COVID-19 testing. In the year from its very first COVID test (on February 14, 2020), the lab performed more than 200,000 tests (we’re up over 250,000 now).

Today, we have the highest testing capacity of any lab in BC; we’re the only hospital lab testing for all three coronavirus variants; and we are the only hospital lab in Canada doing whole genome sequencing of the COVID-19 virus.

Our groundbreaking research

It was a great year to be a researcher at Providence Health Care (PHC). Teams collectively secured millions of dollars in research funding to advance COVID and pandemic-related care including diagnostics, clinical trials, and biobanking.

Early on, we opened a post-COVID recovery clinic. Patients are seen by specialists in cardiology, neurology, psychology, and others to understand, treat, and prevent the complex and debilitating symptoms of long-COVID. Today, we’re networking with other recovery clinics in the lower mainland enabling researchers to share data and learnings.

Of course, there have also been countless other research initiatives over the last year. After all, PHC supports eight renowned research centres and more than 240 principal investigators. While we can’t highlight them all, here are two that reflect PHC’s unique “compassion-meets-innovation” model.

In her report, In Plain Sight, Mary Turpel-Lafond found that Indigenous patients not only have a higher rate of chronic conditions, they have worse outcomes. To cite just one project designed to turn this around, we are leading a team working with Indigenous patients and caregivers in remote Nuu-chah-nulth communities on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

We are also evaluating a promising new drug that seems to reduce disability even after a severe stroke. The drug is given by paramedics before patients get to the hospital. Early results suggest this could be a gamechanger in stroke care.

Our creative approach to virtual care

Teams right across PHC moved at warp speed to adapt critical patient programs so they could be delivered virtually.

The Adult Cystic Fibrosis Clinic made their entire team available via Zoom. The Healthy Heart Program brought its “stretch and movement” sessions online. The Kidney Care Clinic continued to support more than 1,200 patients across BC and Yukon. Dieticians with the Provincial Eating Disorders Program doubled down by launching a podcast and hosting daily “Snack Time and Chill” sessions on Instagram. And in a particularly poignant “first and only,” St. Paul’s Maternity Centre created virtual prenatal classes to reassure anxious moms-to-be that they could still have a safe and healthy birth experience.

Our most vulnerable residents

One of the most poignant lessons of the pandemic has been how vulnerable seniors are, especially those who live in long-term care. In addition to the virus itself, fear, isolation, and a lack of routine can all take a significant emotional toll. The amazing people who work and volunteer at our long-term care homes sprang into action.

Your donations helped build viewing platforms outside residents’ windows, purchase iPads so families can keep in touch, and provide at least one big screen TV to enable virtual visits from our most beloved volunteers.

Therapy dog, Nugget, and his human friend, Stuart, have kept spirits high by visiting their adoring fans via FaceTime. One non-verbal resident is able to say “beautiful” and “happy” when she sees the handsome duo. Another reaches out to pat the screen.

The big TV has also been a boon for Fanny, who hosts weekly newspaper-reading sessions. Well, it started with newspapers. But it quickly became clear that Fanny’s audience of Cantonese-speaking Popos and Gung Gungs (grandmas and grandpas) were mostly interested in the flyers, restaurant specials, and recipes. The sessions have morphed into joyful conversations about food, family, and memories.

Our amazing donors

Through this long year, we have been especially grateful for a few welcome constants: our courageous caregivers, our relentless pursuit of better treatments and faster testing, and our incredible donors.

When you give, you join our health care heroes on the frontlines by accelerating research, advancing treatment options, and always – always – enhancing care with compassion. With your support, we have been inspired to reach higher, to go further, and to do more than we could have imagined.

Thank you.