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Patient Story – Clifton Tooshkenig

Patient Story – Clifton Tooshkenig


Nda Winngez

A New Outlook

Title translation provided by Tiffany Myers from Bkejwanong Territory commonly known as Walpole Island.

“Now that I can start to see things more clearly, I don’t have those kinds of thoughts… thoughts where I didn’t care for the world and the world didn’t care about me either. At some time or another I knew I had to confront this,” said Clifton Tooshkenig, 58, a resident of Walpole Island First Nation. “But now that I see that there are people that care, it’s a whole different outlook for me. I know there’s help out there. I knew it was there, I just didn’t want to bother with it.” 

As a patient with multiple complex conditions due to years of binge drinking, Clifton was a frequent visitor to Chatham-Kent Health Alliance’s (CKHA) Sydenham Campus, Emergency Department (ED) where he received supportive care. Suffering from heart and bowel problems, and a diagnosis of pancreatitis, trips to the ED became a regular occurrence in his life. “For 42 years I drank heavy… the doctors can’t believe how hard I drank and that I’m still here,” Clifton continued, “My mother always spoke to us about the way we should live. But the life out there, that’s all I really knew.” 

As a high user of the Sydenham ED, Clifton was identified through the Chatham-Kent Health Link to ensure he received timely, coordinated and individualized care to better manage his multiple conditions. The Health Link brings together local healthcare providers for greater collaboration in the care of patients with complex conditions. As a coordinating partner in the Health Link, CKHA identified Clifton as a frequent user of its services and in partnership with the Chatham-Kent Community Health Centre (CHC), transitioned him to the appropriate community provider. Clifton now receives primary care at the CHC’s Walpole Island site with a healthcare team who support him in a patient-centred care plan, reducing his need to rely on CKHA’s ED.

Receiving care close to home at the Walpole Island CHC has benefitted Clifton where today he regularly visits his primary care doctor, Dr. Chawla. Providing an encouraging voice to stay on track with his care plan and goals, Dr. Chawla has been attentive to his individual needs. After years of traveling between Chatham and Sarnia for mental health services, Clifton appreciates the ability to also receive counselling services at the CHC. And as part of his individualized care plan, he visits a Physiotherapist within the same location, who helps him with regular exercises and access to therapeutic equipment. 

Health Links collaborates with existing partners across the health system in various sectors such as family care providers, hospitals, community healthcare centres, long-term care and home care. Improved coordination across the system means complex patients will be supported by a team of providers at all levels of the healthcare system. The CHC reflects this approach by building strong partnerships with community organizations on Walpole Island, such as Social Services and Home & Community Care. As a client of Home & Community Care, Clifton benefits from these partnerships, receiving referrals between the CHC and Home & Community Care who take a circle of care approach. At Home & Community Care, a Nurse, Case Manager and Social Service Worker assist in his care plan and provide amenities such as transportation when he’s referred to a Specialist Physician. 

Clifton’s renewed outlook can be contributed to the support from an integrated team of healthcare providers. From his care at the CHC to Home & Community Care, to his time spent in the National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program (NNADAP), Clifton is no longer as reliant on CKHA’s ED services as he was in the past. He thanks many for encouraging him throughout his journey to leading a better quality life. “Velma (NNADAP) used to be a Drug and Alcohol Counsellor and she’d explain something to you with a certain way of reaching out to you without hurting your feelings. If it wasn’t for her and my Social Service Worker and not to mention some other people… you know it’s the little things that people express to you,” said Clifton. 

Being in better health means Clifton can continue to work within the community of Walpole Island, performing odd jobs and assisting his brother who is a well known duck hunting guide. In his spare time, he enjoys painting and sketching and his artwork can be found at the Walpole Island Heritage Centre. 

CKHA and the CHC are partners in the coordination of primary care for complex patients within the acute and community settings – supporting seamless access to high quality care in Chatham-Kent. Together, the organizations have identified clinical outpatient services that are better suited for delivery by community based primary care organizations and have made great progress in moving select outpatient programs into the community where they are needed. This integrated partnership means patients with complex needs are receiving care in the right place, at the right time and with the right provider. CKHA is proud to partner with the CHC and is committed to supporting health system integration to better serve our patients and the community.

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