September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month

All you need to know about Sickle Cell Disease

About 3 patients every month walk into North York General Hospital (NYGH) to receive treatment for Sickle Cell Disease (SCD).

  • Sickle Cell Disease is an inherited red blood cell disorder that causes the shape of red blood cells to turn from circular to crescent shape, causing red cells to be more fragile and inflexible.
  • It causes anemia and leads to pain and blockages of blood vessels which can affect all organs.
  • While anyone can have Sickle Cell Disease, it is seen more in people from Africa, the Mediterranean, Caribbean, Middle East, South East Asia, Western Pacific Region, South America, and Central America.

The Sickle Cell working group at NYGH collaborates with the Sickle Cell Awareness Group of Ontario (SCAGO) and is committed to increasing awareness of the disease and equitable access to care for patients who live with the pain associated with this disease. Here are 4 ways in which NYGH is trying to improve access to care for SCD:

Helping raise awareness

The first step to ensuring better access to care for patients with SCD is that health care providers have the knowledge to provide the required care. This not only includes increasing provider awareness about the disease, but also addressing implicit bias that is one of the key barriers for access to care for patients.

Learning how Sickle Cell affects our community

The NYGH team has been reaching out to the community to understand where the gaps lie in patient care for SCD, and how best they can be addressed. This has been done by listening to personal experiences and feedback from people who come through the hospital seeking care. Patient panels are also organized to reach a wider audience among the health care team, giving them an opportunity to listen and learn.

Making changes to impact patient care

NYGH has made efforts to align its protocols for treating patients with SCD with the Ministry for Health Clinical Handbook for Sickle Cell Disease Vaso-occlusive Crisis. This includes making adjustments to patient care plans and taking a holistic approach to care. Gaps in patient care are also being addressed, such as connecting patients with a primary care provider upon discharge from the hospital.

Forming a community link

Another key area of focus is providing patients access to services within the community such that they can receive comprehensive care even before they come into the hospital, or after they leave. This is being achieved through efforts like partnering with paramedics, connecting patients with primary care providers in the community and other such initiatives.

The NYGH team is working with North York Toronto Health Partners and others within the Ontario Health Team on several other initiatives over the coming months to make sure those living with Sickle Cell Disease get the care they need to comfortably manage their condition. Stay tuned for more in the coming months.