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Collaboration to assist the homeless in Toronto

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he COVID-19 pandemic is bringing the operations of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to Canada for the first time. MSF provides emergency medical humanitarian assistance to people affected by conflict, epidemics, disasters, or who do not have access to medical care. A non-profit with medical program in 70 countries, MSF is collaborating with Inner City Health Associates (ICHA), Canada’s largest healthcare organization specializing in the care of people experiencing homelessness, at Toronto’s first COVID-19 recovery site for the homeless.

MSF brings its medical, technical and logistical advice and extensive global experience leading responses to major infectious disease outbreaks, as well as a commitment to humanitarian principles. ICHA is the clinical services lead for caring for people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The 400-bed COVID-19 Recovery Site, slated to open soon, is the product of collaboration across many agencies dedicated to caring for people experiencing homelessness who have contracted COVID-19. Health and living conditions among the 8,000 homeless people in Toronto makes them particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.

Countries with well-functioning healthcare systems are generally not the focus of MSF, but the magnitude of the outbreak and its impact on vulnerable groups, such as people experiencing homelessness, creates an acute need for MSF’s unique experience responding to outbreaks, such as Ebola, cholera and diphtheria in conflict-affected low-resource areas.

ICHA’s response plan incorporates preventive and clinical nursing, medical care, case management and substance use services. MSF will advise on infection prevention and control, patient flow, staff safety and other technical logistical aspects of setting up and running the COVID-19 Recovery site. ICHA is a group of over 100 physicians and 50 nurses who provide transitional primary care, psychiatry, nursing, and palliative care services to people living on the street, in shelters and in precarious housing across Toronto.

SOURCE: Inner City Health Associates

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