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Rotary International president tours Rotary Transition Centre

Toronto, April 24, 2013

By Karen Gaunt, CLM for Emergency, and community support workers Frank Fournier, Chris Moise and Katharine McGrath.

A patient arrived at St. Michael’s Hospital in sub-zero temperatures one day last winter with soaked, open-heeled slippers. Support workers in the Rotary Club of Toronto Transition Centre provided him with clothing and a jacket to fit his 6’6” frame. Using funds raised by the Medical Staff Association, community support worker Frank Fournier was also able to take the man to a shoe store to pick out and try on new boots for his size 13 feet.

A young aboriginal woman regularly visits one of the RTC support workers she trusts. Because the support worker was able to share this ongoing relationship with the woman’s community housing worker, she was able to find more stable housing. The woman said she feels much less in crisis all the time because of this ability to connect with her native healing in this new private space.

These are just two stories shared recently with Rotary International President Sakuji Tanaka when he toured the Rotary Transition Centre, located adjacent to the Emergency Department.

The centre opened in January 2000 in response to the Homeless and Under Housed Community Advisory Panel’s concerns that vulnerable patients were being discharged after ED visits in a fragile state. Rather than go directly to a hostel, shelter or the streets, the centre gives patients a place to rest for up to 18 hours, launder their clothes, shower and work with staff on a discharge plan.

The centre was built with a $500,000 donation from the Rotary Club of Toronto, which also provided furnishings and major appliances. The centre has two bedrooms, a bathroom and shower, laundry facilities, clothing cupboard, and small living and dining/kitchen facilities. Non-clinical support staff work with the Emergency team to assist clients with medical follow-up appointments, transfer to hostels, housing or detoxification units, job application and other needs. In addition, social workers, community care co-ordinators and geriatric advanced practice nurses help with discharge planning. The centre can also provide ongoing treatment, such as intravenous antibiotics or complex dressing changes for wounds and other injuries, that would usually happen in the community at clinics and other centres.

“The Rotary Transition Centre is a unique service – the first of its kind in Canada – that responds to a major gap in care for vulnerable and disadvantaged populations in our community,” said Jim O’Neill, program director for the Inner City Health Program.

The RTC will sometimes accept patients for longer than 18 hours. One example was a teenager who was eight months pregnant and sleeping on the street. She was at high risk for assaults, using drugs and engaging in the sex trade to support herself, and her baby was receiving no pre-natal care. She stayed at the RTC for three weeks until she delivered her baby. She expressed a feeling of safety and stated that it eliminated her need to use substances to cope with her situation on the street.

The centre sees about 1,000 clients a year. Surveys have found that clients are more than twice as likely to attend specialty follow-up care, probably due to the support staff’s organization of these follow-ups and organization of transportation, often with staff accompanying the client. Client surveys have also found a high satisfaction rate of 90 per cent.

About St. Michael’s Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in more than 23 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, and care of the homeless are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.