It takes a village, and ours is stepping up to support the thousands of migrant workers who join our midst every year.
Cornerstone Community Church has partnered with Quest Community Health Centre to provide a free health clinic for offshore labourers.
The clinic launched Sunday in the church’s Niagara Stone Road location, and will be held there every other Sunday from now through Oct. 6.
Quest has offered a migrant worker health clinic since 2010, when the pilot was held at this same location. “There’s a bit of history with migrant workers at the church,” says Jeff Martens, outreach pastor. “Quest started out here, so it’s nice to see it come back.”
In the interim years the clinic was held in the Niagara North Health Team offices, and in St. Catharines. Cornerstone hopes to be able to give it a permanent home. “We would love the partnering to continue for years to come, whether it’s in this space or our new location on Hunter Road,” says Martens.
The current space seems as though it had been built for this purpose. “It’s interesting how well laid-out the space is for a clinic, with a common space and smaller rooms off it,” says Martens, sitting in the bright and colourful waiting area. Patients will enter the lobby and be met by greeters, who will determine their needs and direct them accordingly — generally to the registration area. Once registered, they will go up to the second floor treatment rooms, where health education videos will be playing in the waiting room in Spanish and English, says Briar Wiens, a nurse practitioner and volunteer at the clinic.
Wiens was the person who started this particular ball rolling. She had volunteered at a similar clinic in Vineland, and saw the opportunity for Cornerstone to provide a similar model. Wiens approached Martens with the idea. “Cornerstone is very invested in global initiatives, but in recent years we’ve been looking to serve the gaps in Niagara-on-the-Lake,” says Martens. “Our congregation had moved so we knew there was space to use in a community-focused way.” He says by last December they had made it official, and formed a lead team.
There are many other collaborators in this endeavour, including the Niagara Migrant Workers Interest Group, Positive Living Niagara, as well as McMaster University and Brock University. The latter two will provide medical students for staffing, and the former will provide support services, including drivers to get workers to and from the clinic. Other staff will include volunteer physicians, nurse practitioners, dieticians, physiotherapists, and a variety of other services, says Wiens.
The core staff will be provided by Quest — including a community health worker, Kylee Hunter. Her job will be to debrief with each patient after their clinical visit, to make sure everything is clear, and they know where to go to take the next steps, including accessing medications and being reimbursed for them.
The need for a free, confidential health service for migrant workers is substantial. “The OHIP process can be delayed when workers arrive in Canada,” says Despina Tzemis, program manager at Quest. She says this clinic will allow members of the migrant community access to supports they may need, and expects to see somewhere between 25 and 30 patients per session.
Wiens and Tzemis also see this clinic as a way to raise awareness of this often-overlooked community that joins ours every growing season.
The migrant workers health clinic would appreciate further support from the greater community, in the form of volunteers and donations. They would love to hear from medical practitioners, including allied health services such as chiropractic and massage. Spanish-speaking translators are also eagerly sought. And donations of funds or medical supplies would be greatly appreciated.
In particular, mental health volunteers would be gratefully welcomed. “There is such a need for mental health support in the migrant worker community,” says Jane Andres, an ardent supporter of the community. “Something like this is such an important support for them. It takes so little to fix it. Just to know they can call someone who can come and talk with them.”
To use the clinic, no appointment is needed. Services are provided on a first-come, first-served basis. Migrant workers from all countries are welcome.
The clinic will operate alternate Sundays from April 28 (May 5 and 26; June 9 and 23; July 14 and 28; Aug. 18 and 25; Sept. 8 and 22; Oct. 6).
For more information call, text or WhatsApp 905-328-1546 or visit questchc.ca.
Cutline: Emma Whyte, Briar Wiens, Lauryn Baerg, Brun Gossen, Jeff Martens and Kylee Hunter, health care volunteers, are in one of the clinic’s fully-equipped treatment rooms. (Lauren O’Malley)