As the demand for pediatric health care across the province surges, a new clinic specializing in treating children for colds, influenza and COVID-19 has opened in Toronto’s east end.
An initiative of East Toronto Health Partners, the Ontario health team serving east Toronto, the new Cold, Flu and COVID-19 Clinic for Kids launched on Nov. 28 at Thorncliffe Park Community Hub, 45 Overlea Blvd., inside East York Town Centre.
The decision to open the new clinic in this specific neighbourhood was based on numbers, Michael Garron Hospital (MGH) told CP24.com.
The hospital said its emergency department, including its Child and Youth Emergency Zone, is currently seeing about 130 families per day, many of which have children who have cold, flu and respiratory symptoms. On the busiest days, as many as 20 per cent of those families come from higher-needs communities, including Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park, MGH noted.
“Data from Michael Garron Hospital indicates that many of the families we are seeing in the Emergency Department live in Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park, two neighbourhoods in East Toronto that were disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic – once again proving that the issues impacting our health system do not affect all individuals equally,” Phillip Anthony, the east-end hospital’s manager of community outreach services, said in a news release.
“To help address these inequities, we’re thrilled to continue our collaboration with partners by opening the Cold, Flu and COVID-19 Clinic for Kids, which aims to make it easier for local families to get the care they need in a place they can trust that’s closer to home.”
Children and youth aged three months to 17 years who are experiencing cold, flu and COVID-19 symptoms including fever, cough, runny nose, and sore throat are welcome to visit the new clinic if they can’t access their paediatrician, family doctor, or other primary care provider.
Children experiencing urgent, severe, and potentially life-threatening health issues should go directly to MGH’s emergency department, which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Some of the services offered at the Cold, Flu and COVID-19 Clinic for Kids include assessments by physicians, access to children’s cold, fever, and pain medicine as well as COVID-19 treatment, and PCR testing.
“With cold, flu and other respiratory viruses circulating and a nation-wide shortage of over-the-counter medications for children, we recognize this respiratory season has been particularly challenging for families,” said Dr. Catherine Yu of the East Toronto Family Practice Network.
“This is especially true for families who are unattached to primary care. By working with our hospital and community partners to open a dedicated Cold, Flu and COVID-19 Clinic for Kids in East Toronto, we hope to make care as low-barrier as possible for local residents, so children and youth can get the supports they need in a safe and timely manner.”
The clinic, which accepts patients with appointments and walk-ins, is staffed by doctors, nurses and other team members from Michael Garron Hospital (MGH) and East Toronto Family Practice Network with the support of community partners, including TNO – The Neighbourhood Organization, Flemingdon Health Centre, and Health Access Thorncliffe Park.
This new initiative is one of a number of ways East Toronto Health Partners’ 50+ community, primary care, home care, hospital and social services organizations are working together to improve pediatric care in the city’s east end. The local Ontario Health Team provides care and support to upwards of 375,000 people in the community annually.
Another notable initiative is MGH's Child and Youth Emergency Zone, a family-friendly space next to the hospital’s emergency department that provides urgent, acute medical care for children and youth when their paediatrician or family doctor is not available.
The Child and Youth Emergency Zone at MGH has served more than 20,000 families since it opened in October 2021. The program recently increased its hours of operation and upped staffing to support the high demand for paediatric care in the community.
Other ways the local health team is responding to this surge, which is causing elevated emergency department visits, longer-than-normal wait times and an increase in hospital admissions, is by opening the Health Access Taylor-Massey social services centre in Crescent Town in October.
The team is also doing cold, flu and COVID-19 assessments and mental health counselling for all ages in Flemingdon Park, supporting pharmacies in priority neighbourhoods in east Toronto to ensure they have reliable emergency access to over-the-counter medicine for infants and children, and operating mobile and pop-up vaccine clinics at community centres, apartment buildings, and other locations in priority neighbourhoods in the community.
Dozens of community health ambassadors and advisors have also been working since early on in the pandemic in high-priority east-end neighbourhoods like Thorncliffe Park, Flemingdon Park, and Taylor-Massey to help support outreach and engagement so that residents have the information they need to keep themselves and their loved ones safe and healthy.
“Whether it’s language barriers or difficulty navigating the healthcare system, our staff and community health ambassadors have seen firsthand the challenges that some (east-end) residents face when it comes to accessing health, social and community services,” Ahmed Hussein, CEO of TNO – The Neighbourhood Organization, said in a release.
“We’re pleased to continue our work with partners in an effort to improve the way local residents find and get care. The community will greatly benefit from being able to access the services at the Cold, Flu and COVID-19 Clinic for Kids in their own backyard.”