Mobile health clinic hits the road, serving Greater Victoria's marginalized population

The Victoria Cool Aid Society is revving up a new health clinic that brings the doctor’s office to some of the capital region’s most vulnerable people.

The health-care van runs five days a week, with an eye for expansion, travelling to shelters and supportive housing sites so people can get access to care from nurses, social workers, and physicians.

“We expect to be very, very busy,” says clinical nurse leader Karen Lundgren. “There are a lot of people in Victoria who have a real difficulty accessing traditional health care and so this will allow us to reach those people.”

The services include anything a doctor’s office would be equipped for, including primary care assessments, STI screenings, wound care and prescriptions. It also has harm reduction supplies and a physician aboard who can help people access opiate agonist therapy.

A 54-year-old man who accesses Cool Aid’s resources on a regular basis and once experienced homelessness decades ago thinks the mobile tool will be especially helpful for people who don’t have a place to call home.

“It’s quicker care,” says Garry Gordon. “Plus there’s less stigma with the van than having to go to (Royal) Jubilee Hospital or something.”

The mobile health unit was a donation from Doctors of the World to the Cool Aid Society. Its operating expenses are being covered by sponsors like Telus and Island Health, as well as community donations that support Cool Aid.

“Over the past year, health care and housing have come together in an unprecedented way to provide more services for those in marginalized populations,” says Mary Chudley, Cool Aid’s director of health and support services. “And now we’re taking those lessons we’ve learned from that collaboration and realizing that, yeah, we need to be more mobile.”

The charitable organization says the van is a cost-effective and sustainable way of reaching people for health care.

“I think it will help people reach their health potential that otherwise wouldn’t be able to,” adds Lundgren.

The van has already been in operation over the last few weeks. Its schedule is being posted and shared with Cool Aid’s community partners, and it can be viewed on the charity’s website.

“This van is a new way, an innovative way to do health care,” says Chudley.