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It's one of the most critical examinations to screen for cervical cancer. However, for women with a spinal cord injury (SCI), scheduling a pap smear can also be one of the most challenging, since access to primary care services in the community can be more limited.
Recognizing this gap, a partnership between Toronto Rehab, Lyndhurst Centre and the Toronto Western Family Health Team has launched a clinic dedicated to serving women with SCI.
“We saw it as both an obligation and privilege to serve a population that can otherwise be marginalized," says Sharmeen Siddique, the Clinic Coordinator.
"This is just the beginning. Alongside strong partnerships like Toronto Rehab, our teams at UHN are dedicated to creating more accessibility and equity in the system."
The clinic, which is located at Lyndhurst Centre, offers urinary tract infection (UTI) consultation, Pap smears and pelvic examinations.
The Family Health Team's goal is providing their services directly to inpatients at Lyndhurst Centre, while also giving physicians in the community the opportunity to refer their patients to the clinic.
"Toronto Rehab knew we had patients with unmet care needs, and we are very fortunate that the Toronto Western Family Health Team also recognized this," says Linda Flockhart, Clinical Director at Toronto Rehab's Lyndhurst Centre.
"By working together, we are providing care that is in a location patients are already familiar with."
Care at the right place, right time
The clinic uses special approaches for the exams. This includes using Hoyer lifts to help patients transfer from their wheelchairs to the examination table and different options for how a patient can be positioned.
For example, since individuals with SCI may have difficulty laying flat, with their legs in stirrups for an extended time. Sae Fukamizu, nurse practitioner for the clinic, takes the time to find positions that work for each patient, so they are as comfortable as possible.
Sae says that her goal goes beyond making patients feel physically comfortable.
"Many patients with SCI have reported traumatic experiences, when receiving care in environments that, despite good intentions, may not be as knowledgeable around how to work with their injuries in mind," she says.
To combat this, Sae books extra time for each appointment so the patient has the chance to ask any questions and familiarize themselves with the space.
UHN is dedicated to fostering partnerships throughout the community and collaborating within our hospital network to provide the best care possible.
"Partnerships like this are vital to bring the right health care to the right place at the right time," says Sae. "When this opportunity came up, we knew it would be one solution to filling a gap in access to care for patients who need it."