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Winter in Canada can feel long regardless of where you live. But for those staying in a homeless shelter like The Ottawa Mission, the winter can seem extra-long indeed. On top of the cold weather, many people are struck with bad colds or flu bugs.

The Ottawa Mission’s Primary Health Clinic, which celebrates its 7th anniversary this spring, is a busy place this time of year. Before the clinic opened in 2007, people staying in shelters – many of whom do not have a family doctor – had to find their way to a hospital emergency room if they became sick. That was especially challenging for those dealing with mental health or addiction issues. They would often not seek help and sometimes became so ill an ambulance would have to be called. The chances of spreading illness to others in the shelters also increased.

But now, thanks to a partnership with Ottawa Inner City Health, two Nurse Practitioners in The Mission’s Primary Care Clinic can see people very quickly. The NP’s are in the clinic every day of the week and are able to reach a doctor on call at the Ottawa Hospital if the need requires. They also help people connect with mental health resources much faster than before.

For people who have nowhere else to turn, the Primary Clinic makes a huge difference in maintaining good health and accessing vital medical care when it is needed most.   At the same time, it brings hope to many people who often feel forgotten.

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