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St. Joseph's Health Centre Toronto

St. Joseph’s Urban Family Health Team is doing direct outreach to the elderly in the community

Across Toronto’s west end, special care packages are being hand-delivered to homebound residents as a way to help keep them safe during the pandemic.

The packages, which include homemade masks and safety information, are part of an initiative by The St. Joseph’s Urban Family Health Team (FHT) where the team proactively reaches out to elderly patients and others who have limited mobility.

This outreach is led by Dr. Judy Thompson, Home-Visit Lead Physician, as part of her work with the Home Visit Academy network of family physicians and nurse practitioners across the Greater Toronto Area.

“Organized outreach to protect the elderly who are more vulnerable during the pandemic is extremely important,” said Dr. Thompson. “They rely on essential services coming to their homes like visits from personal support workers and other health care professionals, or grocery and pharmacy delivery services, so it’s important that they know how to keep themselves safe.”

Initially, Dr. Thompson arranged for Patient Care Packages to be delivered by medical student volunteers to the FHT’s existing homebound patients, who were receiving home visits prior to the pandemic.

Dr. Thompson with care package

Dr. Judy Thompson with the contents of the Patient Care Package

The Patient Care Packages include a poster for the residents to place outside their home to indicate how caregivers and others can step in safely to their home, information on how to safely quarantine, donated cloth masks and a letter from the FHT team on how to care for the masks.

“We organized these packages to provide the elderly a way to protect themselves. It’s been very rewarding to hear how it’s empowered them to state their rules and requirements of their visitors and care providers before they enter their homes,” said Dr. Thompson.

Shortly after this outreach started, the FHT’s Mental Health Team expanded it to include all the elderly patients in the community, and soon this outreach will include boarding homes and rooming houses in the west-end neighbourhood.

Dr. Thompson has also received donated homemade masks from patients and members of Sistering’s Spun Studio, which is a drop-in in the west-end for women experiencing homelessness or marginalization.

“They’re helping with the masks because they want to give back to the community. It has really taken off and it embodies the idea that we’re all in this together and can help out in different ways to keep the most vulnerable safe,” said Dr. Thompson.

Dr. Thompson works at Sistering once a week, which is the Women’s hub site of the Inner City Health Associates (ICHA). ICHA is an organization of primary care physicians and psychiatrists that serve the homeless population in shelters and drop-ins across the GTA. To meet the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ICHA recently hired registered nurses and other health care practitioners to care for the homeless population in both COVID-19 positive and negative isolation sites.

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