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The power of an attorney

Toronto, November 21, 2014

By Geoff Koehler

Michelle Moldofsky and Dr. Nav Persaud
Michelle Moldofsky, general counsel for St. Michael’s, and Dr. Nav Persaud, a family physician, agree that sometimes social interventions are needed to help resolve health problems. (Photo by Yuri Markarov)

An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but the Family Health Team at St. Michael’s Hospital hopes that a lawyer may have the same effect.

Legal Aid Ontario is funding a partnership between the Family Health Team at 80 Bond and several community legal clinics. ARCH Disability Law Centre will be the lead partner. This partnership – the first in Canada between a hospital and a community legal clinic – would allow clinicians to refer patients to a lawyer housed within the clinic.

“A mould infestation that isn’t being looked after by a landlord or difficulty accessing disability benefits are social issues that greatly affect our patients’ health,” said Laurie Malone, executive director of the Family Health Team. “With this, patients could be referred for legal support for any needs that play a role in health outcomes.”

This is not the first instance of St. Michael’s Family Health Team bringing in non-medical expertise to improve social factors for their patients. A financial expert is already available to help patients address needs such as inadequate income for proper food or housing.

“We can already write a prescription for income support,” said Dr. Nav Persaud, a family physician with St. Michael’s Family Health Team. “Adding legal services to the clinic gives us one more way we can improve the quality of life for our patients.”

The in-clinic lawyer has yet to be chosen but would begin working at 80 Bond before the end of the year. He or she will provide legal assistance or referrals in areas of the law that often impact low income people, such as family law, employment, tenant rights and social benefits.


“We can already write a prescription for income support,” said Dr. Nav Persaud, a family physician with St. Michael’s Family Health Team. “Adding legal services to the clinic gives us one more way we can improve the quality of life for our patients.”

“This partnership creates a network of several specialized legal clinics which the in-clinic lawyer can refer patients to when they require specific expertise,” said Michelle Moldofsky, general counsel for St. Michael’s Hospital. “We’re only bringing one lawyer into 80 Bond but we’re also bringing the medical, legal and local community together to increase access to legal services and improve health for our patients.”

During the first year pilot phase of this partnership, legal services will be available at 80 Bond only. The service would be extended to the other Family Health Team sites once it has been tested and adapted as needed.

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 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health 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.