New opportunities open with hospital

As the Jim Pattison Children's Hospital opens its doors, there may also be a window opening for new research opportunities in children's health.

By Kristen McEwen

Dr. Darryl Adamko and Dr. Ron Siemens

Moving from a ward in its former location at the Royal University Hospital to a facility dedicated to pediatric and maternal health care is no small feat—from recruiting more than 70 physicians in 20 specialties, to ensuring the right equipment and information technology needs are covered.

The $285.9 million venture has been a partnership between the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital (JPCH) Foundation, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) and the Government of Saskatchewan.

Dr. Ron Siemens (MD), the current provincial head of the Department of Pediatrics, said that having pediatrics within a general hospital was challenging.

“Too often we were advocating for needed clinical services for our young patients,” Siemens said. “Pediatric patients need different approaches for disease. When dealing with children, you’re dealing with people who are physically and mentally immature; they’revulnerable people.

“Now with the new dedicated facility, the opportunity is coming where we have the critical mass of health care staff allowing time for doctors to not only treat children and teach students, but also to develop children’s research programs.”

Encouraging physicians to engage in research

Director of Pediatric Research, Dr. Darryl Adamko is excited about the increasing research possibilities in Saskatchewan.

“What needs to happen next is a refocus of resources, time and personnel,” Adamko said.

The College of Medicine (CoM) currently supports academic clinical funding plan (ACFP) contracts with physicians and the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA). These contracts are intended to ensure consistent compensation for both academic and clinical work.

While education in the medical school has been a critical need, the next goal is to develop doctors with time to do research and acquire resources to help these researchers.

Among research resources available to physicians is the Clinical Trial Support Unit (CTSU), which provides assistance in the administrative, operational and regulatory aspects of clinical research, including handling contracts, budgets, operations and ethical approvals.

Like all things, there’s a cost to use CTSU services.

“We are working to align future funds from the JPCHF to go to the CTSU, which will create designated services for pediatric research,” Adamko explained.

“We have always been good at creating collaborations across disciplines in the university—from Kinesiology to the Edwards School of Business,” he said. “What we are expecting now is an expansion in these collaborations.”

For example, epidemiologists are doing studies in children all the time, but need more access to the data and more funding for students,” he said.

Quality improvement research is critical.

“For example, how many referrals are we getting for inflammatory bowel disease from Prince Albert, Wakaw, Yorkton, or Regina?” Adamko said. “Who is being transferred, what’s going out of province, how much are we spending on this disease? Surgeons, nurses, allied health professionals might all have ideas on how to make the current health care system better—how to keep people in their own communities.

“The taxpayers and health region want to know how to keep costs down while still providing best service, but they don’t know how. The acquisition of clinical data is part of the research to understand and translate a problem into a better health solution.”

Possibility of a research institute

Adamko is interested in establishing a research institute at the facility, similar to those already established on the Prairies, including the Women and Children’s Health Research Institute in Edmonton and the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba (CRIM) in Winnipeg.

The Department of Pediatrics currently has a research group called SPRING, the Saskatchewan Pediatric Research and Innovation Group. This diverse group of University of Saskatchewan researchers are engaged in child health research.

JPCH Foundation president and CEO Brynn Boback-Lane noted that discussions regarding a research institute are preliminary but quite positive.

“(The Foundation is) very much interested in hearing from clinicians, researchers and allied health teams across the province on what they would like to see in the future when it comes to research in maternal and pediatric care,” Boback-Lane said.

She added that conducting research and delivering care go hand-in-hand.

“We are 100 per cent dedicated to ensuring research continues and that new research is supported in Saskatchewan for our children, newborns, families and mothers to be,” Boback-Lane said.

“As we build a world-class facility, we support the involvement and commitment to research and other innovations that will take place throughout our province.”

This story first appeared in the Fall 2019 edition of Connective Issue.