Meeting the health needs of Winnipeg's most vulnerable population
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Introduction: The health of Winnipeg’s homeless population continues to be one of the poorest in the province. Although some community services are reaching out to this population, these people continue to have decreased access to non-judgemental, primary care services that are unique to their needs. This approach leaves this population to use emergency services when manageable ailments worsen and become serious, acute or chronic conditions. This in turn makes this population’s journey and their cycle of homelessness even more challenging. A proposed model for a physician assistant run mobile medical clinic is put forth as a unique medical service that brings quality care to this vulnerable population, and caters to their unique health needs. In all, this model will strive to increase the health status of this population and help end homelessness in Winnipeg. Methods: A qualitative and exploratory research study on current mobile clinics for the homeless was performed using Medline and PubMed search engines. Identifying community resources for the homeless in Winnipeg was achieved and accessed through online websites and personal communication. Results: Through detailed research, a proposed model for a mobile medical clinic regularly staffed by a physician assistant, a social worker and/or a mental health worker and outreach workers that provide primary care, diagnostic, counseling and social work services is presented. The potential scheduling, location, supervision, funding, advertising, and safety are discussed and described. Conclusions: The project concluded that a mobile medical clinic catering to the health needs of the homeless population of Winnipeg would help increase their access to quality, non-judgemental primary care services. It would also serve as an access point for these individuals to enter into the health care system and have better access to specialty services they require. Patient-focused primary care services will not only improve their health status and help end their cycle of homelessness but will also benefit Manitoba’s healthcare system as a whole.