The community health centre that organizes mobile health clinics for migrant farm workers in Norfolk County has been lauded for bringing health care to the farm.
The Alliance for Healthier Communities — a provincial network of community-based primary health organizations — gave the Brantford-based Grand River Community Health Centre (GRCHC) its Transformative Change Award at a virtual ceremony last week.
The award recognizes efforts to reach farm workers during the pandemic, when COVID-19 restrictions forced the closure of drop-in health clinics in Simcoe and Brantford that workers normally can visit while in town to shop.
In response, a mobile clinic travelled to area farms to give workers checkups and address basic health-care needs.
Virtual visits were also a popular option for workers using video chat apps, with bilingual staff and Spanish translators on hand to make sure effective and confidential health advice could be delivered in the workers’ native language.
In a statement announcing the award, the alliance applauded the GRCHC team “for its outstanding contributions to improving the health and well-being of people and communities facing barriers.”
Providing health care for farm workers, the alliance noted, has implications for food security, since seasonal agricultural workers are vital to the success of Canada’s fruit and vegetable farms.
“Seasonal agricultural workers are the backbone of the agricultural industry, and it is both an honour and privilege to work alongside our partners to provide primary health care both in a clinic setting and directly on farms,” said GRCHC program manager Janet Noble.
One survey of farm workers found almost 60 per cent of workers treated at a mobile or virtual clinic last year would otherwise have ended up at a local hospital emergency department, according to a GRCHC news release.
GRCHC program manager Lynda Kohler said the mobile clinics would be back this growing season.
“Together we have developed trusting relationships with workers and farm owners, enabling us to be flexible and respond to the needs of workers during the pandemic,” she said.
J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator