Improving Access to Care Where Language Barriers Exist: An Interview with Shuter Street Pharmacy.
Many communities are underserved by the Canadian healthcare system and the problem is growing as our population scales and diversifies. Language barriers for patients are common and there is plenty of evidence suggesting this negatively impacts quality of care for these communities. Those who are not fluent in English or French are at a higher risk of the system failing to protect their confidentiality, consent and medical outcomes.
At Cherry Health, we love promoting clinics, hospitals and organizations that aim to bridge these gaps. To dive deeper into Shuter Street Pharmacy’s take on reducing these barriers for patients, we conducted an interview to find out more.
Hi Kathleen! We’re looking forward to learning more about your Pharmacy and Clinic; for starters, can you tell us about why you founded Shuter Street Pharmacy and more about your vision?
Definitely. Shuter Street Pharmacy was created in December of 2019 in the neighbourhood of Cabbagetown South, downtown Toronto.
What inspired me to get Shuter Street Pharmacy up and running was to provide healthcare services to a community that has been largely under-serviced. Currently, my vision is to continue to service this community and provide them with a safe space and help reduce the barriers to quality care.
I’m sure it was a difficult time to get started with the impact of the pandemic. What was your biggest challenge working through that?
As a new pharmacy, our challenges started in early 2020 with the onset of the pandemic. When we opened we didn’t have very much volume and we had a full clinic with 5 rooms and a reception area that needed to be filled. A lot of the community faced barriers accessing healthcare services, but despite these challenges we were still able to service over 10,000 patients.
That’s impressive! Can you tell us more about the surrounding community and the barriers they face?
The main barrier patients need to overcome is the language barrier— this community has a high proportion of immigrants from a variety of places and don't always feel comfortable communicating. We ensure staff is trained to provide the right resources to those facing language barriers. A large part of doing this is developing relationships with our patients and ensuring they feel comfortable, especially the older demographic. At Shuter Street Pharmacy, we strive to be as patient-centric and community focused as possible to ensure we are meeting their needs and providing quality care.
Can you tell us a bit more about the culture at Shuter Street Pharmacy?
The culture at our clinic and pharmacy is community-driven and we want to make sure that our physicians are ingrained in the surrounding community. Giving our patients a safe space and making them feel comfortable is a big priority for us, as this encourages them to access healthcare services and overcome barriers.
Being able to see patients in a better place than where they left off is rewarding. When our patients recover, they show a lot of love and appreciation. We strive to continue building these relationships in our community.
Catering to the surrounding community is always important. What is your approach to hiring?
We’re looking for family physicians that have a passion for community— also, having mental health experience is a plus as there is large demand for this. We’re looking to immediately hire family physicians that are FHO approved.
Can you tell us what is unique about working at your clinic?
At Shuter street pharmacy, doctors take home 100% of income.
We give doctors a lot of autonomy and they are in charge of their own staff. We are connected to a pharmacy, so doctors have open communication with pharmacists. This is also good for patients as they can pick up prescriptions quickly and easily.
What’s next for Shuter Street Pharmacy
We’re looking to hire new physicians. We hope that whoever joins our team will be understanding to a diverse set of patients and truly want to practice family medicine. We don’t like our physicians to feel like a number! We want any new physicians to feel as fulfilled as we do as we support this under-serviced community.
Interested in working at Shuter Street Pharmacy? Learn more here.