The care we provide for our community goes far beyond the walls of the hospital. In February, we extended our reach even further with the official opening of our new Paediatric School Outreach clinic in partnership with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB).
“Health issues can result in poor academic attendance and performance. It can be difficult to access specialized services, such as developmental assessments, when you don’t have a family doctor or are unaware of the supports available. By putting physicians directly in the school we’re helping to bridge this gap,” said Dr. Eddy Lau, Chief of Paediatrics at St. Joe’s.
The clinic is conveniently located inside Parkdale Public School, operating three days a week to provide busy parents with the opportunity to receive care for their children in the familiarity of the school setting.
Students and their younger siblings, from twenty elementary schools within the surrounding Parkdale area will receive care from a specialized team of 10 clinicians including family physicians, pediatricians, a developmental pediatrician and a pediatric neurologist who can identify health issues that may impact a child’s academic achievement.
This is an important resource in a neighbourhood, like Parkdale, which is home to a diverse population including many families who are newcomers and may be intimidated by the Canadian healthcare system or unsure of how it works.
“Many of our students who are new to the country haven’t seen a doctor for a long time. We’ve had parents bring younger siblings who are not at Parkdale yet to the clinic. The option of self-referral means they can get help before they even start going to school,” said Miriam Zachariah, Principal at Parkdale Public School.
Recognizing that 60% of the student population speaks a language other than English at home – the Health Centre has made accessibility a priority. Interpretive services, in over 140 languages, which are offered at St. Joe’s, are now available at the clinic. Since the clinic opened this past November, translation services have been provided in six different languages.
“Being able to understand and ask questions of your doctor is an important part of receiving care. We want to ensure communication isn’t a barrier for our patients and their parents,” said Dr. Lau.
Improving access to care is the clinic’s main priority but, Dr. Heather Yang, a paediatrician at St. Joe’s, believes that working more closely with the school administration will have long-term benefits that will advance the health of the entire community: “Over time we can support health promotion and education, such as helping to prevent injuries or notifying parents of specific issues that teachers are observing. This will help to get ahead of issues before they become problems,” she said.
Ms. Zachariah has already seen the positive impact of having physicians join her team. “As teaching professionals we know that a child’s health can impact their ability to learn and grow, but none of us have the expertise to explain symptoms that we observe or identify medical interventions — collaboration makes us stronger,” she said.
St. Joe’s has a long history of working closely with our local community. It is the best way to understand and respond to the changing needs of people and families. By working in partnership with organizations and institutions, like the TDSB, we strengthen our ability to serve our community.
“The two greatest gifts a child can receive are an education and good health. St. Joe’s is proud to partner with the TDSB, this is an excellent example of how we leverage our collective resources and expertise to help children in our community reach their full potential,” said Shelley DeHay-Turner, Administrative Director at St. Joe’s.