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Sep. 24, 2021 | Friday
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Health clinic for migrant workers returns
Kylee Hunter, Quest’s community health worker, and Jeff Martens, Cornerstone Community Church’s outreach pastor, at one of the examination rooms at the clinic. (Dariya Baiguzhiyeva/Niagara Now)

Cornerstone Community Church has partnered with the Quest Community Health Centre in St. Catharines to provide primary health care services to seasonal workers in the Niagara Region.

The church provided the space for the clinic when the collaboration first started in 2011. That location was used for three years until the clinic moved to St. Catharines. Now it’s back in NOTL.

Jeff Martens, an outreach pastor, said his congregation’s members want to connect with the workers, contribute more to the clinic and be more personally invested in the work.

“Reaching out to our neighbours, that’s an exciting component for us, as a church,” said Martens. “Just to serve and get to know people through this effort.”

The church holds Sunday gatherings and worship services at its Orchard Campus on Hunter Road while the Niagara Stone Road’s location is also used for church offices, day camp, youth programming, women’s program and fundraisers.

Kylee Hunter, a community health worker with Quest, said the majority of migrant workers in the Niagara Region work in NOTL and Vineland.

“I think it’s really important that the clinic is in Virgil,” Hunter said in a phone interview. “We wanted to make sure it was in the space that was accessible for them.”

“There have been workers that come here for 30 years, so Niagara-on-the-Lake is really their home. It’s where they work, it’s where they live,” said Despina Tzemis, Quest’s manager of the Migrant Agricultural Worker Program.

“So, to have services accessible to them and a place where they work and live, I think is really meaningful,” Tzemis told The Lake Report.

The clinic, running twice a month, is free and confidential. No registration or health card is needed, and services are provided on a first-come, first-served basis.

Between 25 and 30 doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners volunteer their time for the clinic. Cornerstone provides volunteer drivers, registration greeters, some nurse practitioners and nursing students from McMaster University while the core staff, medical equipment and beds are provided by  Quest.

The clinic has a registration room, waiting area, a couple of examination rooms with medical beds and equipment, and a room for physiotherapists and dietitians.

Quest Centre also provides health services for migrant workers in Vineland, Beamsville, St. Catharines and via farm or home visits.

Martens said because NOTL’s clinic was primarily based on Vineland’s model, there haven’t been too many challenges running it, although a number of different approaches had to be applied to Virgil’s location. The majority of clients in NOTL are Spanish-speaking while Vineland has more English-speaking migrant workers, so Quest had to provide some volunteers interpreters as well, said Martens.

The upcoming clinic dates are May 26; June 9 and 23; July 14 and 28; Aug. 18 and 25; Sept. 8 and 22; and Oct. 6, from 4 to 6:30 p.m.