The Juma family and staff from the MGH Child and Youth Emergency Zone
From left, the Juma family, who live in East Toronto and Brad Lucifora, Registered Nurse; Dr. Ruchi Mohindra, Emergency Physician; and Sandra Millares, Registered Nurse at MGH.

‘A world of difference’: How MGH’s Child and Youth Emergency Zone is improving urgent paediatric care for families in East Toronto

Imran Juma was running errands during a sunny afternoon in December when he received a call from his two-year-old son Hugo’s daycare noting there had been an incident.

“They said he hit his head on the corner of the bookshelf,” the father-of-two remembers. “They said he was doing okay, but there was some blood and he was probably going to need stitches.”

Imran promptly picked up Hugo and at the instruction of his wife – who had heard about Michael Garron Hospital’s (MGH) recently opened Child and Youth Emergency Zone – brought him to the hospital, which is a short drive from the family’s home near Danforth and Greenwood.

Imran had filled a backpack with one of Hugo’s teddies, a tablet and some food and games to keep the toddler occupied. But he was relieved to find the comfort items weren’t needed.

Imran notes they waited less than 30 minutes before being seen by a doctor in the Child and Youth Emergency Zone.

He says there were also plenty of positive distractions available in the space’s waiting area, including books, puzzles, a gaming system and a number of Paw Patrol-themed pictures and activities, which Hugo was especially fond of.

This family-friendly environment is especially helpful during times when the Child and Youth Emergency Zone – and MGH’s main Stavro Emergency Department (ED) – are experiencing an increase in patient volumes.

“You can tell the space is designed specifically for children. That kept Hugo very entertained while we were waiting,” Imran says.

“And because this is a dedicated space for children and youth, he wasn’t exposed to other potentially traumatic things that you might expect to see in a hospital emergency department.”

“When I got there, I was scared,” Hugo says, sitting next to his father in their living room and speaking through Zoom. “But the people were nice and it didn’t hurt.”

Family-centred care a priority in dedicated space

Imran says the attention to patient- and family-centred care in the Child and Youth Emergency Zone continued when Hugo was met with a Child Life Specialist.

“She introduced herself to Hugo and made it a point to get down to his height to speak to him and let him know what the process was going to be,” he says.

“If she noticed him tensing up, she would take a step back and let him relax. Before the doctor came, she also gave him a paint-with-water colouring book, which was really comforting for him. So he was able to sit and do that as we waited for the doctor.”

Morgan Livingstone, Child Life Specialist at MGH, works with a family in the Child and Youth Emergency Zone.
Morgan Livingstone, Child Life Specialist at MGH, works with a family in the Child and Youth Emergency Zone.

Morgan Livingstone, the Child Life Specialist at MGH who interacted with Hugo that day, says her role in the Child and Youth Emergency Zone involves working with children and youth to determine what they need to cope best – whether that be art, toys or simply explaining to them a medical procedure.

“On what could be the worst day of a kid’s life, Child Life Specialists want to be the best part of it,” Morgan says. “We offer support to children so they can be kids and feel successful in this space.”

Imran says he was also impressed by the “validation” that Hugo received from staff for his “bravery and strength”.

“As we were leaving, everyone was waving and being really kind and acknowledging him,” Imran recalls. “It felt like everyone we interacted with – from the screeners to the doctors and nurses and all the other staff – really seemed to care.”

“I was really happy,” Hugo says.

‘Night and day’ difference for children and youth

Hugo’s sentiments are shared by eight-year-old Colby, who visited the Child and Youth Emergency Zone with her mom in November.

At around 11 p.m. the night before, Colby and her mom, Kirsten Jones, drove to MGH’s main ED from their home in the Beaches because Colby was experiencing intense stomach pains.

At that time, the Child and Youth Emergency Zone had closed for the evening. 

When staff in the main ED informed Colby and Kirsten that they would need to return the next day to pick up test results, they were reluctant.

However, when they arrived the next morning, they were pleased to see the Child and Youth Emergency Zone was open.

“The difference was night and day,” Kirsten says. “As nice as the doctors and nurses are in the main emergency area, it can be a scary place for kids. So being able to come to the Child and Youth Emergency Zone the next day was the perfect antidote.”

Eight months later, Kirsten says Colby still talks about her experience in the Child and Youth Emergency Zone.

“I can’t tell you how valuable that was – it made a world of difference to my daughter in regards to changing her view of what hospital experiences can be like,” Kirsten adds.

‘Heartwarming’ to hear feedback

Dr. Ruchi Mohindra, Emergency Physician at MGH, in the Child and Youth Emergency Zone.
Dr. Ruchi Mohindra, Emergency Physician at MGH, in the Child and Youth Emergency Zone.

Dr. Ruchi Mohindra is an emergency physician at MGH who was involved in the development of the Child and Youth Emergency Zone.

She is also a Kids Health Alliance Physician Champion, which means she is part of a partnership which focuses on improving the delivery of evidence-based, high-quality care.

“It was important for us to create a space for urgent paediatric care that is safe, welcoming and accessible, and caters to the unique needs of children, youth and families in East Toronto,” Dr. Mohindra says.

“This builds on Michael Garron Hospital’s commitment to providing high-quality, family- and patient-centered paediatric care. It also gives us the opportunity to help ensure children and youth have positive experiences in the healthcare system early on, so they are not afraid to find and get care in the future.”

In addition to improving patient experiences, Dr. Mohindra says the Child and Youth Emergency Zone has enhanced the experiences of healthcare providers in the space.

Staff in the MGH ED are able to work more closely with children, youth and families and engage in learning opportunities related to providing paediatric care.

She says the feedback from both patients and staff has been “incredibly heartwarming”.

“It’s exactly what we were hoping that local families – and our team – would want and feel,” Dr. Mohindra says. “It makes me so happy to know we are making a difference.”

Comforting to know urgent care for kids is close to home

Kirsten says she would return to the MGH Child and Youth Emergency Zone “in a second” if Colby needed urgent care.

“The experience made me wonder why this space doesn’t exist at all hospitals,” she says.

Imran says he would also feel confident returning to the space if there was ever another emergency in his family.

In fact, the Juma family did just that this past March when Hugo had a foreign object stuck in his nose.

Imran says Hugo had such a positive experience that time around that “he was crying and saying he didn’t want to leave.”

“There are loads of kids in our neighbourhood. Day to day, you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Imran adds.

“So knowing there’s a hospital so close by with a dedicated emergency space for children is really comforting.”

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