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Refugee Health Centre in Kitchener receives vital funding, opens doors to new patients

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Following a years-long hiatus in new patient intake due to resource constraints, the Refugee Health Centre in Kitchener is preparing to accept new patients following a funding boost from Ontario Health.

“We have 23,000 patients on roster. Our Refugee Health Centre serves 5,000 patients annually,” said Tara Groves-Taylor, CEO of Community Healthcaring KW, the organization that operates the Refugee Health Centre.

Kitchener-Waterloo is one of four locations across the province piloting a three-year, one-time funded program focused on improving primary care for refugees with complex needs. The other centres are located in Ottawa, Scarborough and London.

More than 600 government-assisted refugees have settled in Kitchener-Waterloo this year, and the refugee population is expected to grow by 227 per cent in the next four years, according to Groves-Taylor.

At the core of this initiative lies an integrated care team model, which the Refugee Health Centre has been piloting for the past 1.5 years. This model offers wrap-around services, addressing both physical and mental health traumas, and ensures a smooth transition of patients to community-based medical teams, alleviating pressure on hospital resources.

“People who don't have access to primary care will end up at our emergency departments for things that could have been served at our primary care setting,” said Mayada Abou Warda, manager of primary care at the Refugee Health Centre.

Ismail Khedro, a client of the Refugee Health Centre, continues to reflect on his experience after a tragic accident in Syria.

“After I lost my arms, I didn't get any help in Syria. That’s the truth,” said Khedro.

He fled Syria and came to Canada as a refugee in 2017. Since then, the medical team at the Refugee Health Centre has become a second family to him.

“I am so lucky to have met these people. I'm really thankful and appreciate Canada,” said Khedro.

The new Ontario Health funding means Khedro’s medical care will be transitioned to a family doctor, and his spot at the Refugee Health Centre will open up for someone else.

“Services like access to social workers, access to interpretation services. This funding will allow us to continue that model. We were in jeopardy of not being able to continue,” said Groves-Taylor.

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