Not all moms fit the standard model of obstetric care. For those experiencing addictions, booking a ‘routine checkup’ is just unrealistic.
“Some of our patients don’t have phones, or their phone number changes, or they live in a shelter,” says Dr. Erin Lurie, a family and addictions physician. “And many have had bad experiences with health care.”
Since May 2021, she and her colleagues have been doing their part to change the script. They’ve established St. Michael’s MY BABY AND ME program, run through the Department of Obstetrics.
The team supports pregnant women with addictions. Dr. Lurie helps them deliver their babies, and the staff continue to support their patients post-delivery as well. Thanks to donors, the program has a dedicated social worker – Jasmine Saleh.
“We couldn’t do this program without donor funding,” Dr. Lurie says.
The MY BABY AND ME clinic runs Monday afternoons at the St. Michael’s Health Centre at 61 Queen Street East. Clients can get a walk-in appointment at the clinic, which also offers food vouchers and meals. Dr. Lurie says if a meal is all women want, that’s fine: “We’re ready to offer them things like ultrasounds and blood tests when they’re ready.”
MY BABY AND ME is not just a clinic: It’s a lifeline. Clients can call social worker Jasmine Seleh any time. In turn, Seleh texts Dr. Lurie for urgent calls after hours.
“Our patients can get in touch virtually, and I give them the prescriptions – things like methadone and suboxone – that save their lives,” Dr. Lurie says. “These are things they need daily. We can’t just tell them to wait three days till the clinic is open.”
She says the low-barrier approach is working. Recently, Dr. Lurie phoned a pregnant woman who needed methadone. After Dr. Lurie said she’d call the prescription through to the pharmacy, the woman responded, “I’ll see you Monday!”
Not only was she committing to her second visit to the MY BABY AND ME clinic, but her second visit ever.
Dr. Lurie is also proud to support Indigenous mothers who have so often been poorly served by Canada’s health-care system.
Now the team wants MY BABY AND ME to expand. Dr. Lurie would like to see the clinic operate beyond the one-day-a-week model. “Not every patient can show up Monday afternoon,” she says. And she wants to offer an outreach to pregnant women with addictions in the community. One option is a MY BABY AND ME bus that provides care to people throughout the downtown east end.
Is it difficult working with patients with so many challenges? Not for Dr. Lurie. She says it’s the most rewarding part of her job because so many of her patients are motivated for change during pregnancy. She also loves working with donors who believe in MY BABY AND ME as much as the team does. “Donors have seen the value of the work we do, and the value of our patients,” she says. “That means a lot to us.”
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