Mobile health clinic to support Toronto’s most marginalized communities John Marchesan

A new mobile health clinic is aiming to provide essential primary health and harm reduction services to marginalized communities in the city’s mid-west region.

Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre is working in partnership with the University Health Network Social Medicine Program and TELUS Health to also facilitate COVID-19 testing and vaccination efforts at homeless shelters and areas with the highest positivity rates.

Dr. Andrew Boozary, the co-lead of the mobile health clinic and the executive director of UHN’s social medicine program, says those living in poverty have difficulty accessing healthcare. He adds, the healthcare system needs to adapt and change by bringing help to the community as opposed to expecting vulnerable people to come to hospitals, clinics and use virtual care.

“We can no longer have wilful neglect. We have to change the way we deliver care,” says Dr. Boozary.

Primary health care nurse practitioner Raymond Macaraeg with the community health centre says there is often a stigma attached to receiving healthcare as well as trauma for some people, which is why he’s hoping by taking the mobile clinic to marginalized communities, it will help remove that stigma.

“We will be providing supplies to our clients, things like socks, underwear, hygiene products as well as crack kits and Naloxone kits,” says Macareaeg.

This past Thursday, Toronto’s top doctor, Dr. Eileen de Villa, said the latest data from Toronto Public Health shows South Asian and Indo-Caribbean people now make up the highest proportion of cases being reported through ethnic racial groups. As of November 30th, 79 per cent of reported COVID-19 cases were in people who identified as coming from a racialized group.

Dr. Naheed Dosani, a palliative care physician and health justice activist, says the help couldn’t come sooner for marginalized communities and homeless people.

“People experiencing homelessness in the city of Toronto have been found to be much more likely to test positive for COVID at a rate that’s 2.4 times higher,” he explains. “They are 20 times more likely to be hospitalized, 10 times more likely to be in ICU, and five times more likely to actually die from COVID.”

Similar mobile clinics are already in use from coast-to-coast in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Waterloo Region, Montreal, Mississauga and Peel Region. The goal is to make it a permanent health tool across the city.

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