Women’s mobile primary care program launched in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside

A mobile primary care centre will soon be available for women at risk in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The Vancouver Aboriginal Health Society has launched the clinic, which will operate three days a week outside a trio of locations in the neighbourhood.

The Vancouver Aboriginal Health Society (VAHS), along with the First Nations Aboriginal Primary Care Network, launched a women’s mobile primary care program in the Downtown Eastside (DTES) on Wednesday.

“We are happy to have this up and running, this van is really important to us,” said Rosemary Stager-Wallace, VAHS executive director, at a press conference.

“It is going to bring primary care to the Downtown Eastside to some of our most vulnerable women.”

Stager-Wallace said the program will provide wraparound low-barrier access care with knowledge keepers, elders and healers along with doctors, nurses and social workers.

“Its an extension of (our) services,” she said, “and one that we have no doubt will save lives.”

The Homeless Women’s Needs Assessment found that 77 per cent of the women surveyed said health care and mental health care access were urgent and primary needs.

The van will offer a broad range of services from general checkups to women-specific services like pap smears, IUD insertion and removal, sexual health testing and birth control.

Jasheil Athalia, manager for the women’s mobile primary care program, told Global News in an interview that the program will help mitigate numerous barriers self-identifying women in the community face.

“We’re hoping to really provide long-term, sustainable, continued care for women and we know that right now there’s limited options especially for street-entrenched women,” she said.

“Primary care is hopefully going to fill some of those gaps and with cultural supports and cultural services we’re hoping — especially for Indigenous women — they’re going to get that holistic full circle care that they need.”

Athalia said wraparound, consistent care is important because of the added gaps women in the DTES face.

“A lot of self-identifying women in this community have experienced trauma, sexual violence and so having a care team that consists of women is going to provide that safety, help build that trust,” she said.

“It’s great that we’re starting to fund these initiatives … we just want to get people’s needs met.”

The van is a community-driven program that will begin operating three days a week. It will be parked at the Cosmopolitan Hotel, Ravens Lodge and the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre.

It is meant to be easy to access and there are no appointments necessary.

“This work that’s been put forward has been a long time coming, it will help bring us forward in a really good way,” said Andrea Aleck a spokesperson for the First Nations Aboriginal Primary Care Network.

“We need to really understand the importance of meeting women where they’re at … our end goal is to be able to provide services and care so our matriarchs can take that journey to come back to our communities and our homes.”

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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