7 News Archive

Hospital should back local clinic

By Janet Howard Seven News, May 24, 1975

It’s several years now since South Riverdale Health and Care Foundation begin work on setting up a community health centre.

Residents of South Riverdale – east of the Don River, south of Gerrard Street – realized that something better than occasional trips to the doctor or visits by a social worker should be available for the many people in their community whose lives are damaged by the physical, emotional and social problems that go hand in hand with never having enough money.

Worry makes people sick; insecurity tears families apart; cheap, starchy food robs children of the energy they need to do well in school. Drinking looks like an escape when people get desperate enough, yet it makes all the original problems worse. Often the only straw people can cling to is the moral support of neighbours.

Knowing this, South Riverdale people worked out a plan for a clinic that would take into account all the aspects of a person’s life. They call it treating the whole person, and that whole person is to be the focus: the doctors, the nurses, the para-medical staff are to work together with a board of directors made up of community people to see that nobody gets treated as an interesting sick liver but instead as a neighbour coming in for help.

Just when the South Riverdale people seemed close to agreement with the province for funding their clinic, to be set up in the large, vacant post office building at Queen and Saulter Streets, St. Michael’s Hospital bought the old Loblaw store a couple of short blocks away. The Sisters of St. Joseph, who run St. Michael’s, applied for a building permit to make renovations for what they called a community clinic.

A member of the South Riverdale committee had gone to the small, storefront clinic formerly operated by St. Michael’s on Broadview to ask what their future plans were before the sale went through. He was given no information.

Two meetings with the administrators of St. Michael’s showed that their idea of community does not include any mechanism for local people to set policy. One staff member said it is hard for lay people to do this, and went on to list the various kinds of health-related problems their Broadview clinic had discovered were common in the area. The South Riverdale committee could have told them all about those problems before they ever opened their doors, and said so.

There is plenty of work for two clinics to do. Usually hospitals are in a better position than community groups to get funding for their projects, but in this case it should not be a matter of one or the other: the South Riverdale idea was around first, it meets needs St. Michael’s have found to be present, and the Ministry of Health has been in close touch with the committee members who have worked so hard. St. Michael’s may have done a lot of harm with their well-meaning but secretive plans. It is up to them to back the community they wish to serve by warmly endorsing the South Riverdale Community Health Clinic to the provincial government and working with it once it is set up. Otherwise, it will be a cruel joke if St. Michael’s continues to use the word community.

This article was published in Seven News, Volume 5, Number 24, May 24, 1975