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Connected care: St. Michael’s launches new pediatric development clinic

Toronto, May 3, 2016

By Kendra Stephenson

Dr. Elizabeth Young
St. Michael’s pediatrician Dr. Elizabeth Young is now welcoming patients to the new Developmental Outreach Clinic space at 410 Sherbourne. (Photo by Yuri Markarov)

Filled with colourful blocks, a big red couch and toy trains, the large exam room at 410 Sherbourne looks like any pediatric room – but it’s special.

St. Michael’s Family Medicine and Pediatrics Departments launched the Developmental Outreach Clinic here in March, a joint initiative providing integrated care for children with developmental disorders in Toronto’s inner city community.

Dr. Elizabeth Young, a developmental pediatrician, sees patients referred directly from the Family Health or Pediatric teams to assess and diagnose developmental disorders such as autism. Dr. Young works with pediatricians Dr. Ripu Minhas and Dr. Joelene Huber to follow patient treatment alongside their family doctor, better supporting families and children.

“For these families, the first hurdle is often seeing a doctor for a diagnosis to then access the specialized services within our health system,” said Dr. Young. “The second is navigating that system, which is extremely difficult and much harder for families new to Canada or with financial constraints.”

Children need a diagnosis to obtain future referrals, enhanced help in schools and admission to programs such as respite care or behavioural management. However, Statistics Canada reports about 39 per cent of children with disabilities – which includes development disorders – experience long waiting periods to get a diagnosis. Additionally, 30 per cent have difficulty obtaining a referral or appointment with a specialist and 26 per cent couldn’t get a diagnosis locally.

“These families get overwhelmed and either try to contact everyone or end up seeing no one,” said Dr. Young. “I think parents might be more willing to come to us because we’re in their community, the referrals are internal and their family doctor is a part of the conversation.”

   
Fast Fact: More than one-quarter of Canadian children with disabilities (including developmental disorders) cannot get a diagnosis within their community.

Once diagnosed, the clinic specialists will evaluate each child and treat him or her accordingly, with the goal of transitioning care back to the family doctor. Within this connected model, the team can develop a unique plan for ongoing care, managing medications and sharing test results from early years to adulthood.

Currently accepting internal referrals from the St. Michael’s team, Dr. Young hopes the model can be opened to other facilities and expanded into other areas of care, such as mental health.

“The clinic will continue to grow with the children it’s helping,” said Dr. Young. “I’m learning new areas of need from these patients every day; challenges I haven’t thought of before. With our expertise and the family doctor’s help, we can ensure this vulnerable population doesn’t fall through the cracks.”

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.