Mobile-clinic rejection requires explanation

In the realm of medical care, a second opinion can play a crucial role in delivering a favourable outcome.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/08/2019 (1326 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

In the realm of medical care, a second opinion can play a crucial role in delivering a favourable outcome.

That’s why it’s encouraging to hear that the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority has decided to give some second thought to an offer from Doctors of the World Canada to provide a free mobile health clinic aimed at addressing the primary care needs of some of Winnipeg’s most vulnerable population.

The offer was initially rejected by the WRHA, as reported by the Free Press last Saturday. But WRHA president and CEO Réal Cloutier now says the health authority has re-entered discussions with Doctors of the World about the possibility of reviving the mobile-clinic initiative.

The Montreal-based non-profit group, which operates similar mobile clinics in Montreal and Victoria, came to Winnipeg last November to conduct an assessment of the city’s health-care needs. After concluding that the local health system is “doomed to fail” Winnipeg’s marginalized population as it grapples with a meth crisis, soaring rates of sexually transmitted diseases and a growing homelessness issue, Doctors of the World made its few-strings-attached offer to put a mobile clinic on Winnipeg’s streets.

The organization prepared a 93-page needs-assessment document that included letters of support from several local organizations, including Main Street Project, End Homelessness Winnipeg, Aboriginal Health & Wellness Centre of Winnipeg, the Lived Experience Circle, Siloam Mission and the Manitoba Association of Community Health.

Doctors of the World had funding arranged to cover the $45,000 purchase of a van and $160,000 in annual operating costs, but would have required the WRHA to support lab testing for individuals who don’t have health cards.

The WRHA’s response to the initial offer, in a letter dated Jan. 30 — prior to the release of the detailed needs assessment — said that while the province was in the midst of “significant and revolutionary change” to its health system, it was “not in a position to support this project at this point in time.”

Winnipeg health authority turns down mobile clinic plan

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS “People are dying out there, and we’re not doing our job to look after them. This is one way we could really be successful, said Al Wiebe,chairman of the Lived Experience Circle advisory committee.


The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority has turned down a proposed free mobile health clinic, citing the ongoing upheaval of provincial health system changes.

Doctors of the World operates mobile clinics in Montreal and Victoria, and argued Winnipeg could benefit from one, too — as the meth crisis deepens and rates of sexually transmitted diseases soar, especially among those experiencing homelessness.

The Montreal-based organization had funding lined up to cover the purchase of a van (about $145,000) and annual operating costs (about $160,000), as well as doctors and nurses ready to volunteer, said executive director Nadja Pollaert.

The non-profit came to Winnipeg in November to assess gaps in the health system. “There are a lot of needs,” Pollaert said.

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Lived Experience Circle chairman Al Wiebe called the response “a cop out,” while Main Street Project executive director Rick Lees pointed out that the effectiveness of the mobile clinics has “been proven in other cities; the evidence is there that if you bring the care to (the vulnerable population), you actually reduce the demand on emergency rooms, Winnipeg fire-paramedic services and police.”

At a time when Winnipeg’s police service is so overwhelmed by meth-related crime that its chief has felt it necessary to go public with pleas for help from all levels of government, it seemed remarkably short-sighted for the WRHA to have dismissed this unusual but apparently unencumbered offer of help. Doctors of the World is a globally successful service organization whose simple mission is “to offer and promote access to health care for excluded and vulnerable people, in Canada and abroad.”

While it’s always prudent to view unsolicited offers with a level of caution and even skepticism, current circumstances and the specific needs that could have been met by this mobile clinic should have demanded that WRHA officials give the offer serious consideration. In a time of crisis, every idea that offers a glimmer of hope should be taken seriously. That this one arrived at an inconvenient moment in the province’s health-care evolution should not alone have been sufficient justification for rejecting it.

It’s heartening to learn the idea is being reconsidered. One can only wonder if it took a front-page story about its rejection to prompt the WRHA to consider the need for a second opinion.

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