By Gerald V. Paul
“Having this clinic here in Simcoe means a lot. I have been coming here to work in Canada for the past 30 years and this is the first time I am able to come to see a doctor regularly,” a seasonal worker from Jamaica told community worker and advocate Chris Ramsaroop.
Ramsaroop, of Justicia for Migrant Farm Workers, said the clinic nestled in a Real Canadian Superstore at Simcoe Town Centre is designed to eliminate some of the systemic barriers migrant workers, including those from the Caribbean, face in getting basic health care and reducing visits by such workers to the Norfolk General Hospital by 80%.
The clinic has a reception area, two examination rooms and a waiting room. It’s open once a week from 5 to 9 p.m. and staffed with a physician, administrative assistant and a couple of translators.
The initiative is a collaborative effort of various community partners, including local academics, immigrant services groups, the Occupational Health Clinic for Ontario Workers and the Superstore, where pharmacist Eustace Orleans-Lindsay persuaded store management to allow the clinic to operate in its unused space and provide the free shuttle bus every Thursday or Friday evening since May.
Each year, more than 18,000 migrant farm workers come to Ontario to plant, tend and harvest food for Canadians. All pay taxes, contribute to the Canada Pension Plan and are entitled to provincial health care services.
As many as 30 workers visit the clinic during a given shift; about 60% are Spanish-speaking patients from Mexico, the rest from various Caribbean countries.