Primary support for immigrant women.
By Marta Almeida | Translated by Loretta Murphy
Many women do not know, but regardless of status in Canada, there are medical services available exclusively for them. The Immigrant Women’s Health Centre offers several clinical services totally free of charge, and some at reduced prices.
And to meet the needs of Portuguese speaking immigrants, the centre features a Portuguese-speaking counsellor. Filomena Carvalho from Sao Miguel, Azores, immigrated to Canada in 1965 and has been working in the social area since 1981. “Here, women can have Pap tests done and receive treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, and urinary and vaginal infections. HIV, syphilis and hepatitis B testing is also available, and, for the latter, there are still free vaccines. All tests done at the Centre, as well as medical consultations, are free and you do not need a health card, ” says Filomena.
Access to information and birth control
In addition to medical care and examinations, the Centre also has programs that facilitate access to information, with lectures and visits from the Mobile Clinic to factories, schools, churches and support groups for immigrant women. ” Any group that has immigrant women and is interested in having the clinic go there instead of the women coming here just need to contact us, but we need at least 10 women to move the clinic,” says Philomena.
For birth control, there are pregnancy tests, prescriptions and a supply of condoms. The pills are sold at a reduced price, including the morning after pill, which costs $45 in pharmacies, but can be purchased at the Centre for $15. IUDs cost $60 and can be inserted or removed in the centre.
Importance of prevention
On average, 500 women are served per month, including the Mobile Clinic service. Filomena emphasizes that the female presence among the medical staff (only female doctors practice at the centre) is a strategy to ensure that patients feel more at ease. The counsellor also highlights how prevention is important for women’s health: ” Most are informed, but do not always practice the information they have, and that’s when they start seeing infections and abnormalities… all because they do not go to a doctor. Many do not know that there are programs, and a simple cystitis, for example, can end them up in the hospital, where they pay 500 or 600 dollars. All this because they do not want to miss work, or lose money, but once you get sick, they will lose much more, the cost is much higher, and the consequences are far worse. ”
For access to medical care at the centre, go at the following times : Mondays and Tuesdays – 10:00 am to 6:00 pm; Wednesdays – 2:00 pm – 8:00 pm; and Thursdays – 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. No appointment is required, and service is on a first come, first served basis. For other services, the hours are from 9 am to 5 pm. The Immigrant Women’s Health Centre operates at the following address : 489 College Street, unit 200. The phone number is 416-323-9986.