Home News Emergency clinic for Onkwehón:we opens 

Emergency clinic for Onkwehón:we opens 

Courtesy Indigenous Health Centre of Tiohtià:ke

It was a project over 10 years in the making, but Montreal now finally has its own emergency care clinic for Indigenous clients. It’s located on the second floor of the Queen Elizabeth Health Complex, just up the street from Vendome metro.

The Indigenous Health Centre of Tiohtià:ke is currently taking walk-ins every Wednesday morning. Patients without a family doctor, and even those missing medical cards, are all welcome at the clinic, said Dr. Sean Yaphe, their sole physician.

The goal is to make sure no Indigenous person gets turned away.

“It’s been pretty popular so far. We usually have between five and seven people that show up every morning,” he said.

The clinic has only been open since August 9. The clinic is also in the process of hiring another full-time physician in hopes of extending the hours of their walk-in clinic.

“We’re hoping to recruit more doctors, more nurses, and will eventually have a traditional healer on board,” Dr. Yaphe added.

It was a long process to open the clinic. It all started with a report published in 2012 by the Montreal Urban Aboriginal Community Strategy Network, he explained. Carrie Martin, now the president of the clinic, was among the members of the network tasked with understanding the needs of Indigenous people in the city. 

One of the recommendations that came out of their report was for a dedicated clinic in the city just for urban Indigenous people. Nearly 100 patients were surveyed for the report, all citing numerous problems they had encountered with receiving care at hospitals as well as CSLCs.

“The biggest things that we identified then were things like language barriers, discrimination, and just feeling unsafe going to the emergency room. And difficulties being able to see a doctor,” said Yaphe, also among the co-founders of the clinic. “From that the biggest thing that developed was we needed a health centre – a freestanding, culturally-safe, holistic health centre that can treat the Indigenous population (in Montreal).”

However it wasn’t until recently that the federal government granted the clinic funding, ensuring services for a period of three years, Yaphe said. Private donors also helped to found the clinic.

Beyond tailoring their care to the specific cultural and spiritual needs of their patients, they also offer services to help people navigate the Quebec healthcare system. 

Their team of dedicated health navigators can help patients with filling out forms, issuing health cards, and can even accompany them to hospital visits if they want an advocate. She also helps with English to French interpreting and translating. Some of their staff also speak Kanien’kéha. 

Clinic manager Duane Etienne, who is from Shuswap First Nation, said they’re also in discussions with the Native Friendship Centre of Montreal to see how the two can collaborate to increase access to vehicle transports for patients who might struggle to otherwise get to appointments. It’s a service the friendship centre in the downtown core already offers.

The health centre is currently exploring the purchase of a vehicle to pick up clients that need transportation to receive services.

This article was originally published in print on Friday, September 15, in issue 32.37 of The Eastern Door.

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Miriam Lafontaine is a reporter with the Eastern Door. Her work has appeared in Le Devoir, CBC Montreal, CBC New Brunswick as well as the Toronto Star.

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Miriam Lafontaine is a reporter with the Eastern Door. Her work has appeared in Le Devoir, CBC Montreal, CBC New Brunswick as well as the Toronto Star.