Anishnawbe Health providing cultural programs through pandemic in Toronto


When the pandemic hit last March, Anishnawbe Health had to wrangle new ways to continue its work.

According to the organization, the popular programs went online as a way to reach the more vulnerable.

But their services are up close and personal as well.

“We have two vehicles, the RV with four team members and our van with three team members and helpers,” says Jane Harrison, the program’s mobile health unit coordinator.

Both teams go out onto the streets every day from 9 to 5, offering supports and COVID-19 testing.

“The whole point of our project is to reach the isolated vulnerable populations that cannot, are not able to access the regular venues, so we go where they are, in the parks down by the water, in the under housed areas, we reach them where they are,” said Harrison.

It’s important work for Jessica Morris, a registered nurse with the team.

“To reach the vulnerable population of Toronto where, we’re not asking everyone for an OHIP card, they don’t need ID, we have just better access to anyone who needs this testing done, they don’t have to make an appointment they don’t have to call they can just come out and walk by and we’ll get them done”, said Morris.

Since June, the teams have provided over 6,000 COVID-19 tests.

“We’re averaging about 100 contacts a day, which is amazing. My team is incredible, in terms of that and we have streamlined our system so that you can come to the mobile and everything your registration and your testing is done right there, so there’s no waiting in the lineups, and we also have a really, very detailed client tracker tool, so that we can find you, if your tests are positive, we can locate you, if you’re under housed or not housed,” said Harrison.

The mobile unit’s will continue to provide testing until the vaccines become available, “it’ll make sense to at some point in time to ramp it up, through that kind of model”, said Hester.

Annette Francis

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