From left to right, Kelly Tough, Leila Suleman, Godfrey Wong, Dr. Atif Zafar, Dr. Ashley Verduyn and Dr. Tri Nguyen. Unity Health Toronto staff and physicians have worked to open a new weekly neurology clinic at Providence Healthcare for inpatients and residents.

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Unity Health Toronto recently opened a new weekly neurology clinic at Providence Healthcare for inpatients and residents in need of stroke and neurological care. The clinic allows patients and residents to receive specialized care and consultation from a St. Michael Hospital neurologist without having to leave the Providence facilities.

Once a week, Dr. Atif Zafar, medical director of the stroke program, travels to Providence to see patients onsite. The clinic operates as an outpatient clinic, with a dedicated clinic area and nurse. Patients and residents are given prebooked appointments and are transported to the clinic when it’s time for their appointment. All of the patients are inpatients at Providence Healthcare or residents of the Houses of Providence, and many received prior acute care at St. Michael’s Hospital or St. Joseph’s Health Centre.

The model is beneficial, as patients don’t have to leave Providence facilities to have their neurology consults, said Godfrey Wong, interim clinical operations lead at Providence Healthcare.

“The model is based on the idea of avoiding patients having to leave Providence for specialist appointments. This is great for patients, particularly for our residents at our long term care home, who may need extra support when it comes to transportation,” he said.

Wong says the weekly clinic also paves the way for increased communication and collaboration between physiatrists at Providence and neurologists at St. Michael’s. Some physiatrists even accompany their patients to their weekly appointment, so they can discuss the patient’s care directly with Zafar, he said.


“The new clinic just allows for a quicker, seamless conversation to happen, and the patient knows their care providers are talking to one another,” Wong said.   

In the new clinic, Registered Practical Nurse Leila Suleman is in charge of triaging referrals as they come in, consulting with Zafar and booking clinic appointments for patients. She also coordinates with porters and staff to make sure patients’ schedules are cleared and they are brought to their appointments on time.

“I help oversee the flow of the clinic to make sure everything is smooth, all the papers are in order and patients arrive on time,” Suleman said.

Before the neurology clinic was established, a neurologist would come to Providence about once a month to see patients, but because they didn’t have prearranged appointments, the patients and neurologist would often miss each other, she said.

“Often, the neurologist would go to the inpatient rooms and the patient would be doing activities or rehab, or be in another part of the hospital or in the Houses,” she added. “Now, everything is coordinated and organized, the patients are here on time and the neurologist doesn’t have to leave their office. Everything is there – the notes and the patient charts.”

Dr. Ashley Verduyn, vice-president of medical affairs and chief of Providence Healthcare, says the weekly neurology clinic aligns with Providence’s vision to provide exceptional, world-class stroke rehabilitation.

“With swift access to onsite neurology consultations, patients and residents are able to receive prompt diagnosis and treatment, thereby improving their rehabilitation, recovery and ultimately their quality of life,” Verduyn said.

“It also complements our efforts in establishing a stroke ‘Purple Pathway’ at Unity Health Toronto, ensuring seamless transitions for patients from the acute phase of care into rehabilitation and back home.”

Zafar says the new clinic is an excellent example of integrating care across Unity Health Toronto’s multiple sites and disciplines.

“Imagine the care experience for our patients as we combine Providence Healthcare’s physiatry and rehabilitation expertise with St. Michael’s stroke and neurology expertise,” Zafar said. “This is personalized stroke care at its best.”

By Marlene Leung

Photos by Eduardo Lima

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