Last week the sixth pediatric school clinic in Toronto opened its doors at the Nelson Mandela Park Public School. This clinic is part of the model schools pediatric health initiative – a joint program between St. Michael’s Hospital, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and the Ontario Ministry of Education.
This clinic represents some truly inspired thinking. Despite Canada’s universal healthcare system, there are families that fall through the cracks. Just because you don’t have to pay for the care in Canada, there is still a cost associated with healthcare – the cost of getting yourself to the doctor and taking time off work are two examples. For economically challenged families where both parents work, taking time to bring their children to a doctor is a luxury they cannot afford – even though the visit itself is free. Many therefore forgo care.
By opening a pediatric clinic inside an inner city school, the TDSB and St. Michael’s Hospital are not only bringing healthcare to where it’s needed most, they are doing it in a manner that is convenient for families too. Since parents are dropping off their children at their local school anyways, there are no extra transportation costs. On top of that, children don’t miss an entire day of school and their parents can still make it back to work. This is a win for families.
These clinics may also be a win for the health system. By providing care to people who would otherwise forgo it, they are reducing health risks and potentially eliminating future hospital ER visits. St. Michael’s and the TDSB are studying the impact of the six in-school pediatric clinics to quantify the impact on public health.
This initiative is a fantastic example of innovative healthcare thinking. Faced with the problem of poor pediatric health, healthcare and educational officials didn’t opt for the “easy solution” – a public awareness campaign to get parents to bring their children to a doctor. Instead they flipped the problem on its head met patients where THEY ARE. They brought healthcare to a trusted place in the community – schools.
Healthcare needs more innovative ideas like this one.