Osler’s specialty clinics are helping kids get better

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Remember that skinned knee you had as a kid? ‘Dr. Mom’ probably kissed it better and sealed the kiss with a bandage. But where do kids go when a kiss and a bandage are simply not enough, when it hurts so much even to breathe or go to the bathroom?

The answer, of course, is the hospital. And if that hospital is William Osler Health Centre then you’ll be served by a Regional Children’s Health Centre.

This designation means that Osler is one of 19 hospitals that work with the Hospital for Sick Children to provide full inpatient diagnostic and treatment services under The Child Health Network. It also means that the hospital offers specialty outpatient clinics to children, saving them and their families a trip to a tertiary centre. That’s good news for parents like Vito and Leah.

“Our twins Allegra and Matteo were born premature and became susceptible to Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). The twins were born at McMaster Hospital in Hamilton but when we had to get treatment for RSV we were so pleased that we could get that help at our local hospital.”

In 1998 the Health Services Restructuring Commission designated William Osler Health Centre as a Regional Children’s Health Centre. “The designation is in response to the fact that these days children who come to hospital, particularly through the Emergency Department, are much sicker than in the past,” says Dr. Umesh Rayar, Paediatrician. “They come with gastroenteritis, high fevers, severe asthma, diabetes, kidney and urinary tract infections. So what we have done is develop speciality outpatient clinics to deal with these serious types of conditions.”

There are five specialty clinics at William Osler Health Centre: Nephrology, RSV, Neonatal follow up, Chest and Respirology and Child Maltreatment.

The RSV Clinic at Osler has been running since November 2003. Already it has served 100 patients and typically sees 25 of those patients per week.

Allegra and Matteo became patients of the RSV clinic at William Osler Health Centre in November 2003. They made monthly visits to the clinic where the specially trained nurses weighed them and gave them injections of a prophylaxis called Synagis, which helps prevent RSV in premature infants. Today the twins are doing very well and that makes Vito very happy.

“The nurses are just fantastic. We really developed a great and trusting relationship and that’s so important when you are dealing with the health of your children. My wife and I really had peace of mind because we were told every step of the way what was happening and why.”

Education for ongoing care and family-centred care are key factors the speciality clinics offer patients and parents.

“I think one of the biggest changes in health care I have seen in my 21 years in nursing is the increase in community services and education available to families,” says Susan MacEachern, an RN who works in the RSV Clinic at Osler. “The education that families receive is very important to ongoing care and with the resources available today it really makes a difference.”

Christine Gonzales, an RN who works in the Nephrology Clinic, agrees. “Parents of our patients are so grateful they can get access to information on their child’s condition by answering their questions and addressing any of their concerns on the day of their clinic. The more information we can give them, the more families can do to help in caring for their child.”

One of those parents is Joanne. Her daughter Katrina was only three years old when she began having bladder problems and high fever. Not knowing what was wrong, Katrina’s parents took her to her family doctor who referred the family to Osler’s Nephrology Clinic, which opened in November of 2002. As it happened, little Katrina became one of the first patients for Dr. Rachel Pearl, a paediatric nephrologist who had just started working at Osler. For Katrina, Dr. Pearl became more than just a doctor who made her feel better, she became a friend.

“One of the reasons I appreciate the clinic so much is because of the personal touch Katrina has received from the staff there,” comments Joanne. “It really was amazing that during some of the really scary moments with Katrina’s condition Dr. Pearl called us at home twice a day to check on her condition. You just don’t see that very often these days.”

Dr. Pearl feels that it is important that families get that special care and attention no matter how busy things get. And with more than 300 patients seen over the past 19 months the clinic is a busy place indeed.

“We run the clinic once a week and see about 25 patients. Referrals come from family physicians, paediatricians, obstetricians and even midwives,” says Dr. Pearl. “What is most appreciated by parents and our patients is that they can be seen very quickly compared with a larger tertiary centre where the wait for treatment can be up to six months. At William Osler Health Centre the wait is less than a month.”

As for the future, with plans to build a new hospital there will be greater opportunities for expansion and enhancement of the services offered at William Osler Health Centre.

And while kisses and bandages may be part of every day life for most kids, for those like Katrina, Matteo and Allegra who have special needs, they, and their parents, are happy knowing there is a special place they can go to, to take the hurt away.