Building connections and transforming paediatric care in China
By Colleen O’Toole
On a typical July morning, while the majority of SickKids employees are starting their day at the hospital in Toronto, several of their co-workers are heading to bed on the other side of the world. SickKids International (SKI) has recently landed in China to commence two new collaboration opportunities.
Partnering with hospitals in the north and south of the country, each project is focused on a different clinical specialization. In the city of Tianjin, located to the east of Beijing, we are working to improve paediatric cardiovascular care at the TEDA (Tianjin Economic-technological Development Area) International Cardiovascular Hospital (TICH). In Shenzhen, located in southern China near Hong Kong, we are mentoring staff at the Shenzhen Children’s Hospital (SZCH) to help improve paediatric cancer care and help develop new protocols.
Each hospital reached out to SickKids to request a collaboration that would allow them to improve their respective paediatric health-care practices. We actively engaged in responding to these requests, with the goal of sharing our expertise and contributing to paediatric health care on a global scale.
Cathy Seguin, Vice-President of International Affairs, says that international projects like these allow SickKids to live its vision of Healthier Children. A Better World. “With our expertise, we have an opportunity and a responsibility to work with other hospitals going through an evolutionary curve to help improve their paediatric practices.”
Historically, paediatrics in China has not been supported to the same extent as adult care. However, the Chinese government has recognized the need to address this, and is currently focused on implementing policies that will improve paediatric care. SickKids has the opportunity to make an active contribution to this effort.
Seguin says that while each hospital’s project and goals are different, they align well with SickKids’ vision. This has allowed the collaborations to form fluidly. However, developing partnerships take time.
During initial interactions with TICH, SKI learned about how important it is to build a friendly, trusting relationship in China before any business is done. Over the course of almost three years of building a connection with TICH through back-and-forth communication and visits, a cooperation agreement was signed in November 2015. The same approach was undertaken with SZCH, with a partnership agreement also being signed in November 2015.
At present, SickKids has completed a needs assessment visit with each hospital and are now in the process of implementing work plans tailored to address each hospital’s needs. Currently, a team of SickKids care providers are on the ground at TICH to enhance the hospital’s paediatric cardiovascular practice model and establish a Paediatric Intensive Care Unit. The entire organization has been actively engaged in the process, and has been very eager to learn from our care providers. The SickKids team is currently providing paediatric cardiac assessment education as well as helping nurses, pharmacists and other hospital staff to upgrade their practice skills.
The lessons learned in Tianjin have contributed to the relationship building and progress made in Shenzhen. SickKids has just begun a five-year project in March 2016 that will look to build capacity and advance the haematology/oncology practice at SZCH. In August, a SickKids team will be in Shenzhen to begin providing preliminary oncology assessment education, as well as chemotherapy safety and care guidelines and development.
Cindy Bruce-Barrett, Director of Corporate Strategies Projects at SKI, believes a key outcome of these projects includes helping our partners build the skills and capacity required to deliver and sustain high quality, safe and effective paediatric care. “Our philosophy is to ensure sustainability through capacity building so when projects come to a close, our partners have the structures, processes and competencies they need to support children’s health.”
As we work away in Tianjin and Shenzhen, the projects are receiving recognition in China. Seguin says SKI has already been approached regarding future collaborations. “Collaborations in China have the potential to grow. It could become a very important long-term market for us.”