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A trilingual sign at the Scarborough Hospital, Birchmount campus.

How well is the Scarborough Health Network serving this community?

Local writer Huda Hassan claims that hospital staff lost her uncle, an elderly black man with schizophrenia.

It feels a little strange to wish everyone a happy new year in the third week of January. But since this is my first missive of 2019, I’d like to wish everyone the best for the rest of the year. I hope all of you had some time to relax and unwind during the holidays. I certainly enjoyed my time away from the computer and social media in general — even if I didn’t quite manage a complete digital detox.

Staying away from social media is hard these days since we get so much of our information through its various platforms — especially the sort of direct, first-person report that often gets overlooked in a busy news cycle. Take, for example, this Twitter thread published on Jan. 7 by writer Huda Hassan.

In it, Hassan expressed her frustration with Rouge Valley Centenary hospital, which is part of the Scarborough Health Network (SHN). She said a relative with mental-health issues went missing after being discharged, and was concerned that the hospital’s alleged lapse in care may have endangered her uncle, an elderly black man with schizophrenia.

In some ways, Hassan’s alleged experience mirrors those of other people of colour in Ontario who’ve tried to access health care at hospitals across the province. In December 2017, Ontario’s health ministry co-published a clinical handbook for vaso-occlusive crisis, a complication of sickle cell disease that occurs in people with African, Arabic and Indian racial backgrounds. 

The handbook recognizes the barriers some patients face when seeking care, including “negative provider attitudes of distrust,” “inconsistencies in care” and “lack of respect.” In addition, those seeking care from emergency departments may have “trepidation about whether they will receive timely, adequate and compassionate care,” the handbook continues. “The net result can be a confrontational environment.”

This is not an issue limited to SHN, Ontario hospitals or even the Canadian healthcare system. An opinion piece in the British newspaper The Guardian earlier this week highlighted the ways in which systemic issues in healthcare can fail both service providers and patients.

SHN is in the process of rebranding. When I interviewed CEO Elizabeth Buller in November, she said she hoped Scarborough’s diverse and multicultural communities would continue to engage with the hospital to advocate for their needs. At a live-streamed press conference, Buller explained that SHN’s rebranding exercise was part of its larger mandate to reimagine the future of healthcare.

When I asked SHN for comment on the alleged incident involving Hassan, I received a statement from their community-engagement director, David Belous. “Partnering with patients and families is essential for a quality patient experience, and is core to the work we do at Scarborough Health Network. Delivering compassionate, inclusive care isn’t just our job; it’s our privilege,” he said. “We are aware of the information shared on social media and our leadership has made several attempts to contact the poster to discuss this situation. We are unable to comment further on this specific case out of respect for patient privacy.”

Tell me what you make of SHN’s efforts to address the needs of Scarborough residents it promises to serve. In your experience, has the hospital provided adequate care for you and your loved ones? How can it do better? Email me your thoughts.

Spotlight

Nadia Heyd is the donor relations coordinator at the East Scarborough Storefront, and has lived in Scarborough since 2001.

Nadia Heyd is the donor relations coordinator for the East Scarborough Storefront, a community centre that hosts dozens of agencies from across the suburb to deliver free programs and services to residents of Kingston-Galloway/Orton Park.

As someone who lives and works in Scarborough, Nadia loves that she has easy access to green spaces and to the vibrant communities in those spaces.

“There are a lot of pretty spaces, [though] a lot of them are really hard to get to,” she says, citing barriers such as lack of accessibility, unreliability of bus schedules and rising public-transit costs, especially in the Guildwood and Kingston-Galloway neighbourhoods she lives and works in. “Getting around in Scarborough is a challenge.”

Around town

  • Jan. 17 and on. Caring for Teens Exchange. Moving to a new country can be difficult for the whole family — including teenagers. Although teens may seem to adapt to their surroundings quickly, it can also be challenging for them to deal with so many sudden changes. This free, 10-week program is aimed at newcomer and immigrant adults who have teens in their care. Topics include supporting them at school and work, health and disability, and communication and social media. To register, email Gitanjali at gitanjali@springtideresources.orgAccessPoint on Danforth. Wednesdays, 1 to 3 p.m.

  • Jan. 19. Malvern Treasure Trading Event. Admit it — you’ve likely considered Marie Kondo-ing your space, and have some stuff lying around that’s lost its “spark of joy” for you. You can trade these items — which must be in good or unused condition — with like-minded people at this event. It’s a chance to reduce waste in the environment, make new friends in the community and declutter. Malvern Library. 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

  • Jan. 22. OPP Constable Information Session. If you want to work for the Ontario Provincial Police, this information session will get you one step closer. It’ll help you understand the OPP recruitment process by providing an overview of how to prepare for each stage of the application process. Scarborough Civic Centre. 5 to 8 p.m. 

Get involved

Some attendees of Scarborough Discourse’s first-ever Story Circle at McGregor Park Community Centre in November 2018.

Buoyed by the success of our first Scarborough Discourse Story Circle in November, we’re eager to plan the next one, which will focus on the issue of transit in Scarborough.

We hope to bring together a variety of people — from city councillors representing your wards and planning experts to everyday citizens — to share their personal experiences with using public transit. No talking points allowed! Our goal is to have a more nuanced and in-depth discussion of Scarborough transit beyond the subway versus LRT debate.

My colleague Anita Li and I are in the initial planning stages, and aim to hold the Story Circle later next month. If you’d like to volunteer and help out with this event, get in touch with Anita.

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