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Mobile health clinic extends services to Victoria’s vulnerable population

Mobile clinic allowing Cool Aid to engage individuals who have not accessed care for years
Clinical nurse Karen Lundgren in the back of Cool Aid’s new mobile clinic van. (Kiernan Green/New Staff)

A new mobile health clinic has made meeting vulnerable and unhoused populations where they’re at much easier, according to director of Cool Aid Health Services Mary Chudley.

Over the past three weeks, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van staffed by two health-care professionals and funded by the Telus Health for Good Program, has been providing scheduled stops at under-housed service centres across Greater Victoria. Those include Cool Aid’s affordable housing and shelter buildings – such as Queens Manor, Tally Ho Motel, Sandy Merriman House and Rockbay Landing – as well as Our Place Society and the Mustard Seed Food Bank.

It’s difficult for some of Cool Aid’s clients who are precariously housed, virtually homeless or dealing with addiction or mental health barriers to access their downtown clinic, said Candide Dias, Cool Aid outreach coordinator. “At Cool Aid, we’re very inclusive and welcoming, but people might not know that,” she said. “So if we come to them where they are, it’s a lot more comfortable for them.”

As the mobile clinic service gets more established, Cool Aid plans to expand its service to under-housed people in parks and homeless encampments, Chudley said. It’s hoped the mobile clinic can build on the 20,000 outreach encounters the society made last year.

“Our goal is to engage people in care. When you build a relationship with an individual that doesn’t want to access care … they’re going to realize that not all health-care providers are going to judge them.” Chudley said. “We are engaging with individuals who have not accessed care for years” because of that stigma, she said. As such, they’ll be able to begin compiling a medical history for their clients.

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The van’s team of two – any combination of doctors, nurses and outreach workers including new hires and current staff expanding their roles – will likely deal with the most common community afflictions of wound assessments, skin infections and narcotic harm reduction and education, said Karen Lundgren, Cool Aid clinical nurse leader. The former often carry risk of hospitalization if untreated, she said.

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