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The “legendary voice of St. Michael’s” signs off

Staff sing praises of Locating’s Ernesto ‘Ernee’ Cahanding

Toronto, November 6, 2019

By Jennifer Stranges

Ernee Cahanding wears a T-shirt that says the legend has retired
Ernesto “Ernee” Cahanding

They call him an “unsung hero” and a “legend.” St. Michael’s Hospital staff past and present can close their eyes and hear his calming voice that offered help through many a medical emergency.

For the past 30 years, Ernesto “Ernee” Cahanding has worked in a pivotal role in the daily function of any hospital. He’s been one of the friendly, invaluable and reassuring voices on the other end of the line of the Locating department, answering and redirecting internal and external calls to their desired recipients. Locating staff know that every time the phone rings, their quick actions could help save a life.

“We communicate with urgency and are prepared to meet the immediate needs of doctors, react to different codes and emergencies, monitor alarms, and act appropriately and quickly in order to avoid loss of life, or property and assets,” said Ernee.

Helping others – sometimes during their greatest moments of desperation or need – has been the highlight of his career, said Ernee, so it was with mixed emotions last week, at age 60, that he said farewell to St. Michael’s to enjoy a well-deserved retirement.

When news of his retirement was shared by Dr. Samir Grover on Twitter, it inspired nearly two dozen other messages of tribute, a similar number of retweets and more than 250 likes. View the well wishes. For many, the photo Dr. Grover posted of himself and Ernee was the first time they were able to put a face to his name.

"Despite hundreds (or thousands?) of conversations with Ernee over the years, I had never seen his smiling face until today! He will be missed by many people,” tweeted Dr. Irfan Dhalla, who becomes vice-president of Physician Quality and director of the Care Experience Institute in January.

“Ernee, I’m pretty sure your tenacity in connecting me with specialists even long after I left St. Michael’s has saved lives,” wrote Dr. Ann Marie McKenna, who now practices in North Bay, Ont.

“A voice all University of Toronto medicine residents will recognize!” wrote Dr. Jason Lee. “I remember finally meeting Ernee when I wandered into Locating looking for help with my pager back when I first came on staff. I had to give him a hug! The Bob Cole of Locating,” added Dr. Lee, comparing Ernee to the iconic “Hockey Night in Canada” announcer.

Ernee, who is not a Twitter user, got emotional when presented with a list of the tweets posted in his honour. He said it’s tough to say goodbye to the people and the place he has known for so long.

“They say, ‘Do what you love, and you’ll never work another day in your life.’ That has been my experience here,” he said through tears. “It makes me very emotional to hear that maybe, in a way, I have made a positive impact on people’s lives. I’ve just been doing my job.

“It’s been a blessing.”

Ernee, an avid traveler who has visited over 90 countries and all the wonders of the world, is fluent in English and Filipino and speaks Spanish, Italian and Portuguese conversationally.

He was especially proud of his multilingualism when he was able to help an external caller who was asking for a relative, or an international caller with limited English. And he was always proud to identify as part of the St. Michael’s team.

“This prestigious hospital’s role has evolved not just in saving the lives of patients, but in its medical leadership and research,” said Ernee. “We are internationally recognized – and that made me so proud of what I did here and to say, ‘I work for St. Michael’s.’”

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in more than 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

About Unity Health Toronto

Unity Health Toronto, comprised of Providence Healthcare, St. Joseph’s Health Centre and St. Michael’s Hospital, works to advance the health of everyone in our urban communities and beyond. Our health network serves patients, residents and clients across the full spectrum of care, spanning primary care, secondary community care, tertiary and quaternary care services to post-acute through rehabilitation, palliative care and long-term care, while investing in world-class research and education. For more information, visit www.unityhealth.to.


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