Culture At A Crossroads: Corona Edition with Dr. Gillian Kernaghan

Updated: Apr 14, 2020

Dr. Gillian Kernaghan is the President and CEO of St. Joseph's London. She also sits on Premier Ford's Council on Improving Healthcare and Ending Hallway Medicine. Kernaghan is a board member of the Ontario Hospital Association, an associate professor at Western University, on the Academic Hospitals of Ontario Executive and Council, and is the chair of the Catholic Health Associations of Ontario Board of Directors. Not to mention, she was the past co-chair of the Canadian Health Leadership Network, and the past president of Canadian Society of Physician Executives.

It is the continued mission of Culture at A Crossroads to explore issues most prevalent for Canadians. Recently, I interviewed Dr. Kernaghan to gain insight on COVID-19 from a medical, hospital, and executive perspective. Questions are focused on virus concerns, how it spreads, possible treatments, preventative measures, and who is most at risk.

Below is the transcript:

DM: It's great chat with you, a friend and someone who's in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis. Just at the outset, what is your reaction to this crisis?

GK: It's really unprecedented times. I lived through SARS and the H1-N1 pandemic, and this is similar, but way more extensive than this, so it's really requiring much more engagement from the public to really help with this pandemic and is certainly stretching the healthcare system.

DM: Hmm. Talk to me a little bit about some of the response that's happened at St. Joe's. I know London's always been known as a medical care city - a hospital city - and you guys along with LHSC have come out with some pretty good systems, as far as testing goes.

GK: We have, the good thing is we work very closely together between the two hospital systems in London. One of the key areas of focus for us right now is to create the capacity for the increased number of individuals who will need hospital care. So we've been really looking at, London Health Sciences, which is the acute inpatient hospital down in their census, so they have room for people. And then at St Joe's we have four hospital sites and at particularly two of our sites we've opened additional beds to take patients out of London Health Sciences [LHSC] into our other hospital system. This is to create room at LHSC so they can do what they need to do when the wave comes.

DM: And you guys are one of eight sites in the province able to conduct this testing where previously it was taking like five to seven days to turn around and get it back, and now it's happening within 24 hours. How has this sort of data helped catapult you guys going forward to being on top of this crisis?

GK: The lab that we have in London is a joint initiative between the two hospital systems. And yes, we are starting to do testing. We are increasing our capacity and we hope to substantively increase our capacity over the next week. At the moment we're really focusing on people who are sick enough to be admitted to hospital because we know it's covert. It means that we can look at the treatment protocols for people who have this new virus and we're also testing healthcare workers and getting them done quickly so they know if they have this virus and if they don't they can continue serving the public in the healthcare system. And if they do, we can make sure that they're getting the support and the care they need. So those are the two key areas of focus, in addition to anyone in long-term care because they tend to be elderly and they tend to be the people at very high-risk at this time of the pandemics. The lab team looks at what's our capacity, who's our priority, and that's how we're focusing the volume that we have to make sure that we're focusing on the highest priority people

DM: Dr. Kernaghan, down the road the province wants to get to the place where they can have the capacity to test maybe close to 20 000 by mid-April. So when we get to that point, do you think that we'll be able to keep up with the demand in Ontario?