Welcome to the tent clinic where Toronto’s undocumented immigrants get medical care

Of note:

Alma Tacuboy and her ailing father were signalled to a grey vinyl tent on the lawn as soon as she pulled her car into the driveway of the Canadian Centre for Refugee and Immigrant Health Care.

The Toronto clinic, at Sheppard and Midland Avenues, serves the city’s uninsured and undocumented migrants, but had been shut down since mid-March due to COVID-19. Patients could only call in over the phone or be seen virtually on a video app.

However, with a pent-up demand for basic health-care needs in the midst of the pandemic, volunteers and staff have erected the tent to make sure primary care remains accessible to the most vulnerable population.

“We had to stop seeing patients and started doing things virtually. There are clearly patients to be seen and their conditions are deteriorating in isolation,” said Dr. Paul Caulford, a co-founder of the clinic, which opened the 10-by-20-foot field tent to patients last week.

“With primary care backing up, things still need to be done for newborns who are not immunized and patients who have chronic health problems.”

From behind a glass panel, a masked Caulford conducted a thorough medical assessment of Hilario Tacuboy, who woke up feeling light-headed and with blurred vision in his right eye.

Wearing a face shield, an N95 mask and isolation suit coveralls, Caulford came out from behind the glass divider and gingerly examined the 60-year-old man’s eye. He was looking for symptoms of a stroke — something that couldn’t be done through the glass, let alone over the phone.

Alma Tacuboy said her father had come to visit from the Philippines, but couldn’t return home because the country is locked down and all flights have been cancelled. His travel health insurance expired and friends referred them to the clinic.

She said she decided against taking her father to the emergency room after her father-in-law died alone at North York General Hospital two weeks ago of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The family couldn’t visit.

“We’re afraid to go to a hospital with my dad because of COVID. We’re scared we couldn’t see him, hear him or just give him food if he’s hungry,” she said. “We feel safe in this tent. We have our masks and gloves. And there is fresh air.”

Even though the Ontario government has relaxed the access to health care and expanded medical coverage to the uninsured and undocumented patients in the wake of the pandemic, Caulford said many patients still fear seeking help and going to the hospital.

In mid-April, Caulford reached out to Global Medics, a Canadian humanitarian group, for a tent that is usually used for disaster relief. A contractor donated the labour to build the wooden deck and interior of the makeshift outdoor clinic.

The staff and volunteers were then faced with the challenge of finding personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect themselves and patients. When their own clinic shuttered, they donated what they had to their front-line colleagues fighting the pandemic in hospitals.

An effort led by the local Chinese Canadian community came to the rescue with boxes and boxes of PPE, which made the opening of the field clinic possible.

“I was in tears watching the community effort,” said Caulford, adding that the clinic also got support from local MP Jean Yip (Scarborough-Agincourt), the Canadian Medical Protective Association and the Ontario Medical Association, as well as local health authorities.

The outdoor clinic is open from noon to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. Before they can be seen in person, patients must call for virtual care and triaging. The virtual appointments are mandatory and must be completed before a patient can see a doctor at the clinic.

Source: Welcome to the tent clinic where Toronto’s undocumented immigrants get medical care

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: