Posted July 8, 2020
A group of Ottawa health-care providers and activists are piloting a mobile clinic this weekend aimed at making coronavirus testing more accessible for residents of the city’s lower-income neighbourhoods.
Ottawa’s local ACORN chapter, a group of advocates for the city’s low-income families, announced the project Wednesday in partnership with the Ottawa Hospital, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) and other community health groups.
The mobile testing clinic — a bus equipped with testing equipment, free masks, hand sanitizer and information pamphlets — will set up at 1059 Ogilvie Rd. from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.
The spot, behind the Food Basics in Ogilvie North Park, was chosen because of its proximity to two Donald Street apartment towers that house a high concentration of newcomers, low-income tenants, people with disabilities and people who don’t speak English as their first language.
Ottawa ACORN said in a release that its engagement with residents in Vanier and Overbrook showed many barriers associated with the way coronavirus testing is done today.
Currently, Ottawa Public Health directs anyone in need of a test to the Brewer Assessment Centre in Ottawa South or one of the two COVID-19 care clinics on Moodie Drive or Heron Road.
But Ottawa ACORN said it’s heard from community members — many of whom are seniors, immunocompromised or have a disability — who were wary of the long trips on public transit, costs for private taxis and the need to wait in lines to get tested. Others cited unreliable internet access and language barriers as challenges to staying informed on the latest coronavirus protocols.
Jean-Marc Ladouceur is an ACORN member who also lives at 1244 Donald St. He said in a statement that it’s financially draining for tenants in his building to get access to testing, in addition to physical stresses associated with travel.
“I had a stroke three years ago so I can’t stand for too long, making standing in a line to get tested or standing on public transit to get there impossible,” Ladouceur said.
“It makes a big difference to have it right outside the building.”
Some officials, including Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Rawlson King, have called in the past for Ottawa Public Health (OPH) to set up a new testing centre specifically in the east end catering to lower-income communities.
While the virus has been identified in every ward in Ottawa, OPH’s mapping tool shows eastern areas such as Rideau-Vanier, Rideau-Rockcliffe, Alta Vista, Beacon Hill-Cyrville and Cumberland are among the wards with the highest concentration of individuals testing positive.
Experts speaking to Global News in May said the coronavirus pandemic has hit the world’s poorest communities the hardest.
There are a number of reasons why. Many lower-income jobs can’t be done from home and come with a higher risk of infection, while measures to curb the spread of the virus are oftentimes expensive. Low-income residents are also often forced to take public transit and live in crowded housing.
Article by Craig Lord for Global News