Canada remains to be one of top countries where Filipinos choose to settle in outside of the Philippines. From 2006 to 2015, some 321,742 Filipino citizens received their permanent residency status, and just last year, statistics showed that the Philippines registered the most number of immigrants in Canada. Around 36,000 of these Filipinos in Canada live in Edmonton, the capital city of the Canadian province Alberta.

With such growth in the population of Filipinos living in Canada, new residents face various challenges such as adjusting to foreign culture and customs. A more pressing challenge, however, is the one that involves accessing the right healthcare in Canada.

This is the main reason why polysomnographic technologist and businessman, Kris Salumbides pushed for the establishment of the first Filipino-owned medical facility—Medicus Family Health Clinic and Pharmacy—in Edmonton.

“It was exciting to be able to be the first Filipino-owned and operated medical clinic in Edmonton offering world-class care,” Salumbides told MIMS in an interview. He also serves as Medicus' director of marketing.

In telling the story that led to establishing a medical clinic that caters primarily to Filipinos, he lamented that his kababayans in Alberta felt medically “underserved.“

"I have been around in the community promoting companies I previously worked for, and I found out that our kababayans are still looking for family physicians and specialists,” Salumbides explained.

Soon after recognising the need, he met with Dr Joel San Agustin, Medicus’ medical director, who expressed interest in putting up a medical clinic in Alberta. From there, they co-founded a medical facility that is based on the idea of malasakit (empathy).

“We thought [a Filipino-ran medical facility is] important because from our experience in other healthcare-related businesses, oftentimes we see Filipino patients who do not have a family doctor. Some are unsure how or where to go for medical care, many had poorly controlled health conditions that they would feel more comfortable seeing a Tagalog-speaking doctor about it.”

True Filipino hospitality

Medicus boasts a medical environment that infuses the true Filipino culture of being hospitable. According to Salumbides, they specially look for staff who understand, believe in, and want to provide care based on the philosophy of malasakit.

“Medicus Family Health Clinic and Pharmacy is a space where all Filipinos would feel at home, and any non-Filipino would be able to come and experience the true kind and caring nature of Filipinos,” said Salumbides.

“Our team includes two full-time family doctors, one internal medicine specialist, one paediatrician, two speciality nurses (dietitian and counselling), along with several other key staff who ensure the smooth and caring operations of the clinic. Ninety percent of them are Tagalog-speaking: front end staff, doctors and even our pharmacist.”

Salumbides clarified that even though majority of Medicus’ staff are Tagalog-speaking, they do not limit their clinic to Filipino patients.

Possibilities for expansion

Initially, he admitted, they were worried about having enough patients come to Medicus to sustain the clinic’s business. But since its launch last June 2017, they have seen an average of 45 patients a day.

“We already need another full-time family doctor so we can meet the demand,” Salumbides noted. And although it is still too early to tell, the idea of adding more clinics and medical services sounds appealing.

“It would be wonderful if we had an opportunity to expand in the future!”

It goes without saying that along with the possibilities of the clinic’s expansion comes a greater responsibility to maintain the clinic’s core value.

Salumbides adds, “The plan from the very beginning was to create a space to improve health where all involved would contribute to the feeling of a caring family environment… We have been successful in being able to do this so far.”

Asked for his message to Filipino healthcare professionals living in other countries, Salumbides said: “When I first moved to Canada 10 years ago, my training and credentials were not recognised in Canada, so I had to work several jobs to make ends meet. I was persistent and I worked to enhance my education. I was fortunate to meet my business partners here in Canada who also shared my vision and my work ethic. I'm proof that it can be done. If you are driven and passionate, nothing is impossible.” MIMS