If you are poor or homeless you will likely be treated very differently in the Ontario health-care system than other patients.
“People get treated differently due to the circumstances they are in,” explained Trevor McLellan, an outreach worker with Oxford County Community Health Centre outreach. “They don’t have the same access to health care that other people do.”
McLellan said their goal during Community Health and Wellbeing Week was to bring awareness of the fact that people do not always get treated equitably or in a respectful manner in the health-care system.
He said those without access to primary health-care providers may find themselves in the expensive emergency room due to their inability to find a physician for nonemergency issues.
“It’s not a good use of time or resources,” McLellan said. “Emergency rooms are supposed to be for emergencies.”
For those living in poverty, changing a diet due to diabetes or high-blood pressure can be next to impossible.
“They may not be able to purchase the food they need because of income,” McLellan said.
McLellan said the question of inequity in the system is being addressed at the Oxford County Community Health Centre, where they are trying to break down barriers for people living with low incomes, addictions, mental health issues, along with the county’s youth and seniors.
“To put health equity at the centre of our work, we strive to understand the diverse needs and unique barriers that impact the people we serve,” said Kathy Nyman, a therapist at health centre. “And to achieve advances in health equity, our centre knows we have to take action on the social conditions that affect access to resources and power.”
The centre has several initiatives designed to break barriers to health care, including providing transportation for their patients who need to visit specialists.
They also have cooking classes, where people can learn to cook, receive food and learn to budget properly.
They also partner with agencies such as Operation Sharing, the Salvation Army and other services to provide support to their patients.
The centre also provides help for patients with mental health issues, as well as addictions.
“We’re trying to remove barriers and to a great degree stigma as well,” McLellan said.