Médecins Sans Frontières is joining efforts to help homeless people in Toronto in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
MSF, also known as Doctors Without Borders, will provide medical, technical and logistical advice at a 400-bed COVID-19 recovery site for homeless people that is due to open soon, though no specific date for the opening has been announced.
It marks the first time Médecins Sans Frontières has operated in Canada.
“With our extensive experience responding to outbreaks, such as Ebola, cholera and diphtheria, in conflict-affected, low-resource areas, we see an opportunity to share our knowledge with first responders here in Canada to prepare and assist a community that is highly exposed to the virus, MSF Executive Director Joseph Belliveau said in a press release released Monday by Inner City Health Associates, which will be operating the recovery centre.
ICHA, a group of over 100 physicians and 50 nurses, estimates that there are about 8,000 homeless people in Toronto.
In a statement, ICHF medical director Dr. Andrew Bond described the COVID-19 threat to homeless people as “unprecedented,” saying the virus would have a “disproportionate and devastating” impact on the homeless.
Announcement of the collaboration came the same day that Global News reported that 313 physicians and nurse practitioners released an open letter calling on provincial and municipal officials to address the problems homeless people are facing, including not being able to practice social distancing at shelters and drop-in centres.
“Unless there is ongoing rapid action, we will see preventable deaths and outbreaks with broad public health implications during this pandemic,” the letter read.
With files from CBC News (Shanifer Nasser)