The tests are being brought to them.
Testing for COVID-19 among Saskatoon’s vulnerable population is increasing thanks to a partnership between the Saskatchewan Health Authority and local community-based organizations (CBOs) that’s allowing for more mobile COVID-19 testing sites around the city.
Mobile testing sites for COVID-19 currently include The Lighthouse, Central Urban Métis Federation Inc. (CUMFI), Prairie Harm Reduction (PHR), White Buffalo Youth Lodge, Friendship Inn, Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Centre, YWCA, Salvation Army and Meewasinota Community Residential Facility.
“The relationships we are building with these organizations and their clients continues to strengthen,” said Charmaine Bellamy, Primary Health Care Manger, Core and Downtown Network. “With a population we have not always supported adequately or met their needs, we are now doing important work that is rebuilding trust. Reconciliation is happening far beyond paper and words – it is happening between SHA staff and the very vulnerable and underserved. When the CBO teams trust our teams, they can pass that trust onto their clients and that’s exactly what is happening.”
The mobile testing work for COVID-19 began in Saskatoon in January and the numbers of people being tested at mobile sites continues to rise. As an example, at the outset about five people a day were being tested at Prairie Harm Reduction and, as awareness of the service and trust continues to grow, the team recently tested 27 people in one day.
“Our COVID-19 testing and assessment site on 22nd Street does an incredible job at serving the very vulnerable, but there are still a number of people who cannot or choose not to make their way to us,” said Bellamy. “Since January, we have seen significant growth in the mobile testing for surveillance efforts and this can only be thanks to the hands and feet that are carrying out this work.”
Christine Thompson, lead for mobile testing, has a team going out each day including Deanne Lockinger, Megan Sraybash and Stephanie Volk.
“These team members not only do their jobs well, they are passionate about it,” said Bellamy. “They are building friendships with clients and staff. These connections they are creating is improving the way we deliver our services, and the way we support organizations in the city.”
The mobile testing provides a level of reassurance for CBOs, and the knowledge that cases will be caught quickly should one arise in either a client or staff member.
“This has truly been a collective effort of so many team members and community partners,” said Bellamy. “There were some hiccups and mistake along the way, but the perseverance everyone showed has led to some very tangible benefits for some of our most vulnerable community members.
“COVID-19 has caused many, many challenges throughout our system,” Bellamy added. “At the same time, it has provided us an opportunity to be better and serve better. On this piece, we have risen to the occasion, and I am hopeful the outcomes will be long lasting.”
Deanna Lockinger (left) and Megan Sraybash are part of the mobile testing team working with community-based organizations to reach vulnerable community members.