Historic gift to transform emergency care for older adults

John and Myrna Daniels. (Photo: Geneviève Caron)

The largest single donation to emergency medicine in Canada will elevate the standard of urgent care for older adults across the country. John and Myrna Daniels Foundation have donated a lead gift of $52 million to establish the Myrna Daniels Seniors Emergency Medicine Centre at University Health Network (UHN).

As Canada’s first purpose-built Seniors Emergency Medicine Centre, it will have full Level 1 Geriatric Emergency Department Accreditation as approved by the American College of Emergency Physicians. Every element, from the lighting to the non-slip floors, will be designed to address the unique, most complex needs of older adults.

“Living a long life is a privilege, one that comes with its mounting health challenges. We see it as our personal responsibility to ensure that everyone can age with grace, dignity and respect – and having access to the very best health care is key,” says Myrna Daniels. “Establishing the Seniors Emergency Medicine Centre is a gift to our peers and the generations that age after us. The Centre will be the guiding light for best practices in caring for older adults in Toronto and throughout this country.”  

The new Centre will be housed at Toronto Western Hospital (TWH), home to Canada’s largest brain, arthritis and vision programs. TWH offers its diverse patient population world-leading care with a community feel. In addition to funding the construction of the physical space, the John and Myrna Daniels Foundation’s investment will support a model of geriatric care that will become the gold standard across Canada and beyond.

“John and Myrna Daniels Foundation is honoured to be part of this historic moment in global health care. The development of the Myrna Daniels Seniors Emergency Medicine Centre will solidify UHN as a national leader in caring for older adults,” says Ron Daniels, Executive Director of John and Myrna Daniels Foundation and President of Johns Hopkins University. “It’s important we take a proactive approach to the emergency medical care of our aging population, and the Centre will be revolutionary, both nationally and globally, by transforming the patient experience, enhancing patient safety and improving patient-oriented outcomes.”

UHN is the number-one research hospital and largest teaching hospital in Canada. As such, the creation of the Seniors Emergency Medicine Centre at UHN will significantly support excellence in geriatric emergency medicine research and education. Research efforts will create and share transformative ideas, and education will shape a new generation of trainees through lifelong learning opportunities. The inclusion of a comprehensive research and education program, combined with the dedicated space, all specialized in geriatric emergency medicine, will make this the first centre of its kind globally.

“The immense generosity of John and Myrna Daniels Foundation has been inspiring,” says Dr. Sam Sabbah, Medical Director of Emergency Medicine at UHN. “Everyone wants their parents and grandparents to receive the highest standard of compassionate care possible. And when it’s our turn to be senior members of our communities, we also want to be well cared for. Our hardworking team, especially under the guidance of Dr. Tessa Ringer, Medical Director of our Geriatric Emergency Medicine Program, is ready to make that possible in the new Myrna Daniels Seniors Emergency Medicine Centre, the only centre of its kind in Canada.”

The geriatric emergency medicine model of care is not limited to the emergency department (ED). The Centre will empower the UHN team to build strong, integrated partnerships with patients, providers, the community and the broader healthcare system to improve the continuum of care. These links will ensure that patients receive follow-up care once they leave the ED and are supported in their home of choice.

“Health care is at a crossroads. Our population is aging rapidly, and building the Myrna Daniels Seniors Emergency Medicine Centre is signalling to the world that we will take the path that offers the best care for older adults,” says Tennys Hanson, CEO of UHN Foundation. “John and Myrna Daniels Foundation has made this ambitious and vital project possible. For that, we are profoundly grateful.”

Addressing the challenges of an aging population

Scheduled to open in 2025, the Myrna Daniels Seniors Emergency Medicine Centre will be built at a critical moment in history. Across the globe, countries are experiencing a “longevity revolution,” according to World Population Ageing 2019, published by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. By the year 2050, it is estimated that 1 in 6 people will be age 65 or older. Canada is not exempt, with an estimated 10.4 million people expected to be in that age range by 2037.

In the next 25 years, 25 per cent of Toronto’s population will be over age 65. Already, UHN’s two EDs – located at TWH and Toronto General Hospital – care for more than 30,000 older adult patients a year, many of whom have chronic conditions and comorbidities. The Centre will initially care for 6,200 older patients every year, with the ability to care for higher volumes of patients over time.

“We have the expertise to take care of the sickest, most complex and vulnerable patients in the country, especially for our increasingly aging population,” says Dr. Sabbah. “Our services are high in demand, and now the Myrna Daniels Seniors Emergency Medicine Centre will increase our capacity to continue delivering timely, effective and safe care to older adults and to enhance care to lead to even better outcomes. Older adults have contributed so much throughout their lives and deserve the best.”

Based on leading best practices in geriatric emergency medicine, the Myrna Daniels Seniors Emergency Medicine Centre will focus on identifying and caring for three groups of older adults who will benefit most from the Centre’s unique resources:

  • People with mobility, functional or social support challenges
  • Individuals at high risk for falls, delirium and other health care-related harm
  • Patients who are in the ED waiting for an inpatient bed and are expected to have a long stay in hospital due to mobility, functional or social support issues

Building upon excellence in emergency care

The Centre will be staffed by UHN’s world-class Emergency Medicine team, which works across the two EDs. Both EDs are staffed with multidisciplinary teams skilled and experienced at identifying and addressing the medical and social needs of older patients, as well as decreasing the likelihood that these patients are unnecessarily admitted to hospital.

The team is comprised of 90-plus physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants, and more than 200 nurses and allied health professionals, including Geriatric Emergency Management Clinical Nurse Specialists, social workers, physiotherapist and occupational therapists. They handle some of the most complex medical emergencies on behalf of the entire UHN family, which also includes Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Toronto Rehab and The Michener Institute of Education at UHN. In the past five years, the Geriatric Emergency Management Clinical Nurse Specialists alone have helped hundreds of patients avoid a total of 2,500 unnecessary hospital stays.

“UHN’s Emergency Medicine team has already accomplished so much for older adults in their care,” says Myrna Daniels. “Imagine what they can do once the Centre opens.”

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