Ottawa

Pop-up clinic brings COVID-19 tests to those most in need, advocates say

Dozens of people turned out Saturday for a pop-up COVID-19 assessment clinic designed to address the barriers low-income residents have faced getting tests.

Dozens turned out to be tested Saturday at the clinic at Ogilvie North Park

A mobile testing unit was set up in Ogilvie North Park on Saturday, July 11, 2020, to help residents living nearby in Vanier and Overbrook access a COVID-19 test more easily. (Fiona Collienne/Radio-Canada)

Dozens of people turned out Saturday for a pop-up COVID-19 assessment clinic designed to address the barriers low-income residents have faced getting tests.

The clinic at Ogilvie North Park was a partnership between Ottawa ACORN, the Ottawa Hospital, the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre, CHEO, Ottawa Inner City Health, and the Ottawa Paramedic Service.

Its location made it a better option for people living nearby in neighbourhoods like Overbrook and Vanier.

"The transportation is so bad to try and get out to Brewer Park, Alta Vista or Stittsville. It takes three or four buses and God knows how long," said Stephanie Graham, co-chair of ACORN in Vanier, referring to the city's permanent testing centres.

"You're not supposed to be on the buses anyhow, and if you're sick, are you going to feel like going on the bus? I don't think so."

Residents line up to get a COVID-19 test at a mobile testing unit in Ogilvie North Park on Saturday, July 11, 2020. (Fiona Collienne/Radio-Canada)

At least 70 people were tested by midday, including Lauren Seward-Munday. 

She wanted to make sure she was free of COVID-19 before visiting her father, who has breathing problems.

"This [location] is better because at least it's just, like, one bus ride," she said. "I was good and I was able to get it done and I can get my groceries after."

Earlier this week, Ottawa Public Health released a snapshot of COVID-19 cases in the different wards across the city.

The Rideau-Vanier ward — which encompasses Sandy Hill, the ByWard Market, Lowertown and Vanier — had 131 cases per 100,000, slightly higher than the average rate across the city.

Even higher was Rideau-Rockliffe, which includes some wealthier neighbourhoods but also Overbrook. The ward had 172 cases per 100,000 people.

This snapshot of the rate of COVID-19 cases across Ottawa wards shows the virus is in every part of the city, but some neighbourhoods have significantly more cases than others. (Ottawa Public Health)

Saturday's clinic included a paramedic bus that operated as a mobile unit, as well as a booth that allowed people to be tested without ever coming into contact with the health care worker inside.

"It's not a confined space where you have people potentially with [COVID-19] inside, breathing in the same air and potentially contaminating or touching things," said Brock Mosley, vice-president of strategic operations for Honey Group, the Ottawa-based company that designed the booth.

People could line up outside the enclosed booth, Mosley said, while the worker inside — with their arms inside protective sleeves — swabbed them for traces of COVID-19.

The booth also cuts down on the amount of personal protective equipment needed, he added.

"You're not going through the mask, the goggles, the gloves, all of that, and disposing [of] it every time," Mosley said.

Mosley said the company is in talks with the city and Ottawa Public Health to have a semi-permanent hub outside each hospital, along with pop-up booths available as part of future mobile clinics.

Meagan Wiper, a member of Ottawa ACORN, says the mobile testing site set up in Ogilvie North Park on Saturday served residents who may not have the ability to travel to other testing locations. 0:38

With files from Radio-Canada's Fiona Collienne

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