Toronto-area hospital opens midwife-led care clinic to ease burden on ER

Toronto parents Sharmine Felix and Theodore Gregory searched for a pediatrician for their new baby girl but came up short. She is now on a wait list for a doctor.

“We called a few places, they pretty much said there’s a waiting list and the people who are currently on that waiting list (won’t be seen) until January of next year so we would be way past that,” said Gregory.

The couple learned about the brand new Midwifery Care Clinic at North York General Hospital and have visited twice in the six days since the birth of their daughter.

“The first midwife that we had met two days ago, she took her time with us, she she made everything really personal, she gave us the advice that we needed and since we saw her, everything has been a lot better. She’s been sleeping through the night. She’s been feeding,” said Felix.

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Read more: ‘Significant loss’: Midwives, mothers concerned by midwife shortage in Abbotsford, B.C.

The clinic provides outpatient services to patients, newborns and families during pregnancy and following childbirth. The clinic is staffed by midwives and provides a variety of clinical care services.

“We heard from patients and families, and it’s been our experience that there’s often fragmented care in the immediate days and weeks following delivery for them, which has them landing in emerg departments, urgent care and walk-in clinics and we’ve really wanted to fill that gap in one clinic offering,” explained Sheri Ferkl, program director, Maternal Newborn and Paediatric Care.

Another issue is the lengthy wait times in emergency departments due to staffing shortages.

“Our goal is really to avoid having patients and families who don’t need to go to the emergency department to come here,” said Ferkl.

Read more: Mi’kmaw women hoping to revitalize Indigenous midwifery in N.S.

The clinic is on the second floor of the hospital and offers access from an infection prevention and control perspective to keep families safe.

“Servicing families in this space without the context of a number of other patients who are sick with viral illnesses or other illnesses, when newborns really have little to no immunity following birth, feels like it’s for sure the right place, the right services, and the right people,” added Ferkl.

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The clinic offers prenatal consultation, maternal post-partum wellness checks for issues including pain management, wound care and bleeding and breastfeeding support, plus newborn wellness checks, newborn feeding consultations and newborn jaundice follow-ups.

“To the best of our knowledge, nobody close to us is offering the same access to a midwifery led clinic-model and the scale and scope of services that we’re offering. The government has funded a number of programs … we were really fortunate to be able to get the funding and the nice thing is it’s operational and ongoing funding for us, which means that the services are sustainable and embedded within the context of our program,” said Ferkl.

Dr. Abheha Satkunaratnam, chief of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at North York General Hospital, said within just a few weeks the clinic has already proven beneficial to both patients and their families.

Read more: New Brunswick midwives struggle to keep up with demand for service

“Some of the gaps are during this immediate postpartum time where moms really can fall through the cracks and families can fall through the cracks and so with establishing that neonatal follow up clinic, this really made sense for us in terms of integrating the care,” said Satkunaratnam.

Registered midwife Maya Biali, who previously worked in the community and is now based at the clinic, called it a “privilege” to be able to work with the families who visit the clinic.

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“They’ve just given birth, they don’t have access to a family doctor or a pediatrician or if they do and it’s the weekend, the baby needs to be seen within a couple of days by a care provider. Who’s going to see them? I don’t want them going to a walk-in clinic so they can come to me and I can care for the mom and the baby,” said Biali.

“If we need follow up, I can ensure that we have good follow-up and if they do have a family doctor or a pediatrician, then I can send all the information straight to them,” she added.

Hours of operation are from Sunday to Thursday from 8 AM to 4 PM but there are plans to extend the schedule to seven days a week in the near future.

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