As one of the first hospitals in Ontario to begin offering paediatric development assessments and neonatal follow-up care in the late 1980s, The Scarborough Hospital’s physicians and staff are well aware of the crucial difference this therapy can make for infants and children.
Now, more than 25 years later, The Scarborough Hospital continues to build on these essential services for its youngest patients as it expands on its Child Development Program.
“The Scarborough Hospital has a proud history of offering comprehensive, innovative paediatric care, and the expansion of our Child Development Program is another way we are continuing this longstanding tradition,” said Dr. Peter Azzopardi, Medical Director and Corporate Chief of Paediatrics at The Scarborough Hospital.
The expanded program is part of a Scarborough Child Development initiative between The Scarborough Hospital and Rouge Valley Health System. In collaboration, both hospitals submitted a proposal advocating for the enhanced services to the Central East Local Health Integration Network (Central East LHIN), the regional health authority responsible for Scarborough.
“This is a huge step forward for paediatric care in Scarborough, and a true example of two hospitals coming together to improve health care services for their community,” says Dr. Karen Chang, Chief of Paediatrics at Rouge Valley Health System.
The expanded Child Development program includes the addition of Dr. Deepali Mankad, a new Developmental Paediatrician who joins the robust interprofessional team. Other members include two Paediatric Neurologists, a Child Psychologist, Social Worker, and several Speech Language Pathologists and Occupational Therapists. In addition, The Scarborough Hospital has a partnership with Toronto Preschool Speech and Language Services to provide paediatric speech language pathology services.
Together, the team provides multi-disciplinary assessments for children with a wide variety of developmental problems, including autism, and cognitive and physical disabilities. The team offers speech and language therapy for children who have communication delays, as well as team surveillance assessments at regular intervals for at-risk infants following discharge from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
“Early intervention is crucial for these infants and children if they are to have the best health outcomes,” explains Dr. Azzopardi. “There is a rising rate of children with autism who present with a wide variety of developmental delays. Identifying children who will most benefit from limited and case specific treatment resources as early as possible is a key task for our developmental team. Our expanded Child Development Program will accelerate the pathway to care by establishing a diagnosis as early as possible, ultimately leading to a better quality of life for our young patients and their families.”
In addition, the team will integrate with a large number of other providers to optimize their young patients’ outcomes. Partners will include: Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, Grandview Children’s Centre (Grandview Kids), and the Central East Community Care Access Centre for in home services, as well as a variety of other community resources.
Dr. Avril Castagna, a Paediatric Neurologist at The Scarborough Hospital who is part of the program, adds that the addition of Dr. Mankad will be particularly beneficial for patients and families.
“The unique qualifications of this specialist will allow her to perform formal assessments and diagnose delays as a sole practitioner. This will enhance our ability to see many more children and triage them to the appropriate professional on our team,” she says.
The Scarborough Hospital’s leadership in developmental assessments and neonatal follow-up care is just one example of the leading-edge programs and services it has offered for decades to one of Canada’s most diverse and vulnerable communities. In the early 1990s, The Scarborough Hospital was the first community hospital in Ontario to implement Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN) where infants are fed through an IV.
The Scarborough Hospital continued to innovate throughout the latter part of the decade. In 1997, it pioneered the ‘Til I Sleep program among Greater Toronto Area hospitals, which allows parents to accompany their children into the operating room until the child has been anaesthetized or ‘falls asleep’. The Scarborough Hospital was also the first in Canada to provide universal newborn screening for sickle cell disease in the late 1990s, which led to its adoption at all hospitals across Ontario, as well as in three other provinces.
In 2007, Paedlink clinics were launched at both of the hospital’s two campuses as a way to quickly move children and their families from the Emergency Department to a specialized paediatric clinic and ease what can be a stressful experience for young patients. The Paedlink clinics have since been recognized as a leading practice by Accreditation Canada.
In addition to these services, the hospital’s Paediatric program offers a Level IIC NICU, as well as inpatient paediatric care, day surgery, and both a paediatric day clinic and a newborn assessment clinic that are available to referred patients every day of the week.
“Our goal is to deliver world-class care close to home for our patients and their families,” says Dr. Azzopardi.