St. Michael’s to hold clinics for Syrian refugees

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St. Michael’s to hold clinics for Syrian refugees

Toronto, December 9, 2015

By Leslie Shepherd

Dr. Ashna Bowry
Dr. Ashna Bowry in her office.

St. Michael’s Hospital is one of several health-care facilities in Toronto participating in a new Syrian Refugee Clinic.

Each site has agreed to hold at least one clinic a month. St. Michael’s will hold its first clinic on (Tuesday) Dec. 29 at the Health Centre at 80 Bond, one of its Family Health Team locations. Future clinics will be held at the hospital’s St. James Town Health Centre, which already holds an after-hours clinic on Saturdays.

St. Michael’s clinic, the largest of the participating centres, will be staffed by residents and family physicians. Each clinic is expected to see up to 30 patients per week and each visit could take about 45 minutes.

Dr. Ashna Bowry, the lead physician for St. Michael's Hospital's Syrian refugee clinic, said the hope is to integrate the refugees into the hospital’s Family Health Teams as soon as possible. The family physicians are working with the hospital’s departments of general surgery, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology and psychiatry, to provide telephone consultations during the Saturday clinics and-or timely follow-up specialist care.

Refugees will have OHIP coverage almost immediately upon arrival.

Dr. Bowry, a specialist in tropical medicine, said many of the patients may not have received regular primary health care for several years or treatment for chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Many are expected to have suffered orthopedic injuries and traumatic injuries such as burns that are common to war zones.

"We anticipate dealing with immediate needs like managing injuries, and trauma," Dr. Bowry said. "But the mainstay of primary care will be based on treating neglected chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure" and complications from being off medications.

For children and adolescents, the focus will be on dental care, updating their vaccinations and assessing them for a state of undernutrition known as failure to thrive.

Dr. Morton Beiser, a psychiatric epidemiologist from St. Michael's, said research indicates up to 20 to 50 per cent of refugee children suffer from PTSD, while 10 to 15 per cent of adults are affected.

As a pediatrician at an inner-city hospital, 30 to 40 per cent of Dr. Tony Barozzino’s patients are immigrants or refugees. The Canadian Pediatric Society and Citizenship and Immigration Canada asked him to co-create and co-edit a website with free, up-to-date and accessible information that would help health-care providers best care for immigrant and refugee children and families.

To make an appointment for the Syrian refugee clinic or for more information about clinic dates and locations, call 416-323-6400 ext. 5905 and leave a message. Someone will respond within 24 hours.

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.

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