HRRH Paediatric Asthma Clinic

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Toruna and Tanisha Deokaran are breathing easier these days. They’re also doing it closer to home.

Thanks to the new Paediatric Asthma Clinic at Toronto’s Humber River Regional Hospital (HRRH), the Deokaran sisters are receiving specialized care for their asthma conditions and understanding how to manage their disease effectively in their own backyard.

“Step by step, they’ve shown our family how to deal with our children’s asthma issues; it’s been very helpful,” said Bhagratty Deokaran, mother of Toruna and Tanisha. “We are also grateful that the clinic is close to home. It’s a wonderful thing Humber River is doing for the community.”

Bringing care to the community is a priority at Humber River; it’s also a key component as HRRH plans for its new state-of-the-art hospital, set to open in 2014. The Asthma Clinic, which opened in January, is one of many examples of how Humber River is specifically addressing the needs of patients and families in their community.

“We have a very large ethnic and African-Canadian population in our area; and people from these groups have a very high incidence of asthma,” explained Dr. Narendra Singh, Humber River’s Chief of Paediatrics. “With the on-going support from our Senior Management team, we have been able to establish a clinic that meets the needs of our unique demographic; provides families with information about asthma; and helps parents and their children to understand the treatment of the disease. Educating these families is an important part of this program.”

Helping with that education is Philomena Dos Santos-Gokul – Registered Respiratory Therapist and Asthma Educator with the Asthma Society of Ontario – who works with Clinic patients and their families to teach children and their parents how to manage and cope with the everyday realities of the disease.

“With asthma medication it’s not like taking a pill,” said Dos Santos-Gokul. “There are specific techniques required for using devices such as turbuhalers – which dispense medications – that aren’t necessarily straightforward. Spending the time to educate these families and answer their questions is our priority.”

Through education and health promotion Dr. Singh and his team are working hard to improve the health of young asthma suffers in the HRRH community.

“We’re also hoping to decrease emergency room and hospital visits for these families, and empower children and families to manage their illness more efficiently,” said Singh.

That kind of help was received with open arms by the Deokaran family last December when three year-old Tanisha arrived at Humber River’s Emergency Department in acute respiratory distress. Her condition was so bad that she almost required the help of a mechanical ventilator.

“Based on Tanisha’s presenting symptoms, we diagnosed her with asthma and started the acute management of her disease immediately,” said Singh. “When her condition significantly improved we sent her home; but, at the same time, we also referred her to our Asthma Clinic. We wanted to ensure the Deokaran family would receive follow up care and information about Tanisha’s disease. She was one of our first patients at the Clinic.”

“We went from a very frightening experience and a state of ignorance to learning a lot about asthma,” explained Bhagratty Deokaran. “We also took Toruna, our 11 year-old daughter, to see Dr. Singh; she’s had severe asthma since she was two years old. Thanks to Dr. Singh and the Asthma Clinic Team we now understand how to take control of the girls’ asthma attacks before they begin. It’s also helped me to manage my asthma. It feels good to be educated and have a solution.”

Along with Dr. Singh, the Clinic is comprised of a team of HRRH specialists who work with patients and their families to provide assistance throughout the treatment process. A typical visit to the Clinic includes an examination by a Paediatric Respirologist and an education session with Dos-Santos Gokul. Many patients are also seen by the Clinic’s Paediatric Allergist and undergo pulmonary function testing. All patients receive education related to their specific asthma condition.

“Patients are referred to the Clinic by our Emergency Department and HRRH paediatricians,” said Singh. “Soon, due to overwhelming demand for these services, we will also be accepting referrals from family physicians in our area. The numbers have been incredible and the expansion of the Clinic is inevitable.”

Humber River’s Paediatric Asthma Clinic isn’t the first specialized clinic to open its doors to Humber River’s youngest patients; and it won’t be the last. In 2009, the Hospital opened Neonatal and Paediatric Follow-Up Clinics which focus on the continuity of quality and safe care on an outpatient basis.

As for the future of paediatric care at Humber River, “there’s more to come,” announced Singh.

“As an organization that takes pride in delivering quality and safe care to our patients, their families and our community, we will continue to develop programs to the best of our ability that reflect the illnesses of our catchment area and bring care closer to home for everyone.”