Four times per year, Ottawa-based otolaryngologists work along side a colleague and usually one resident, to provide care to a severely underserviced population. During the five-day work week, surgeries are scheduled four mornings during the week comprised mainly of otological procedures, septoplasties and tonsillectomies. The rest of the five days is spent evaluating patients in clinic.
There is a predominance of otology-related disorders including hearing loss, tympanic membrane perforations and other abnormalities, as well as malignancies particular to the Inuit population such as nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Unique cultural influences are taken into consideration in patient dealings, often with the aid of an interpreter. Limited resources pertaining to the operating room, monitoring abilities and diagnostic tools result in innovative approaches taken to develop management strategies for this population. Responsible allocation of resources is particularly important in this system.
These villages are remote and isolated, and patients frequently must be flown in to the hospital to undergo surgery. More complex investigations and treatments must occur in Ottawa, which requires displacing patients from their native villages to a large urban centre. Such a move is resource-intensive and also culturally disruptive. Elective resource allocation, in a way that is sensitive to the personal and cultural needs of the patient is accordingly critical. There is a strong advocacy role in monitoring infant feeding practices, smoking cessation and water precautions. The promotion of elective ear hygiene and preventive measures for hearing loss is critical. Staff also engage in teaching activities of both the nursing staff and of the family practitioners. Frequent impromptu teaching sessions are held to answer concerns on behalf of the family physicians, and to educate them with respect to otolaryngologic issues.
Project Lead: Johnna MacCormick