‘Malasakit’ drives first Filipino-owned health clinic in Edmonton
RED DEER, Alberta – The influx of patients every day at Medicus Family Health Clinic sums up two values for its Filipino owners – that there remains a great need for health care providers with “malasakit” or empathy and that their brand of compassionate care is worth the effort.
The clinic located in the Alberta capital of Edmonton City, home to some 36,000 Filipinos, is indeed flourishing as evidenced by the installation of its third doctor by September after opening on June 21.
Kris Salumbides, director of marketing, said, “We thought that it would take us three to six months for our clinic to become busy, but we were wrong. Since we opened our doors, our clinic has been flooded with patients.”
Over a year ago, as a medical representative, Salumbides had met a number of Filipino doctors based in Edmonton when the idea brewed of setting up a clinic where patients could express themselves comfortably using the mother tongue. The goal was to have a clinic where Filipino patients would feel “at home.”
“I am really passionate about patient care,” said Salumbides, also a registered respiratory therapist and sleep technologist for over 14 years. He co-founded the Quality Care Group of Companies, which includes the respiratory business arm, Quality Sleep Care.
He met Philippine-trained Dr. Joel San Agustin who was a nurse before becoming a doctor in the United Kingdom, and who moved Canada with his family in June 2015. Dr. San Agustin is the clinic’s medical director.
“Dr. Joel and I had a meeting and we both shared the same goal to have our own medical clinic to help the growing Filipino population in our area, our kababayans who are still looking for family physicians who could speak the same language,” he added.
The clinic prides itself on the hospitable, friendly disposition that its ninety-percent Filipino staff shows to walk-in patients.
The mantra is to always make sure that the clinic exceeds patient expectations. “All patients who enter our clinic are greeted with a big smile and more importantly, we try to address their issues right away,” Salumbides added.
“It is significant for our kababayans to know that Medicus is owned by Filipinos,” he said. A survey the owners conducted in the Filipino community reiterated their preference to see Filipino doctors in order to overcome language barrier. As well, “They told us that Filipinos have malasakit (empathy),” said Salumbides.
Edmontonian Moe Barzagar said in a post on the clinic’s Facebook page that he waited no more than ten minutes to see Dr. San Agustin.
“He listened to every detail and took the time to explain the treatment to me. It was a big contrast to getting rushed out the door as I usually do at other medical clinics. Also it’s right near my house, which is perfect!” he said.
“Although we have seen a lot of kababayans in our clinic because of our Tagalog-speaking physicians, we don’t limit our clinic to Filipino patients,” Salumbides said. He noted that Southside Edmonton has some 18,000 Filipino residents.
“Schedule and language barrier are the challenges faced by elderly patients from the Philippines,” he said, explaining that most Filipinos work extended hours with no time off to see their doctor. “They are really happy when they found out that our clinic accepts walk-in patients and with less waiting time,” he said.
The clinic attends to the needs of some 35 to 45 patients a day. Every Wednesday, Dr. Jean Silvano a specialist in obesity, diabetes and hypertension also sees some 25 to 35 patients.
Conveniently, patients have access to pharmacy services within the clinic. Medicus Family Health Clinic and Pharmacy is located in Unit 2, on 1536-91 St., Southwest, Edmonton.