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New spin-off benefit: Windsor medical trainees now caring for homeless population


Doctors in their final year of training, called residency, can choose to do a one-month rotation at the Shelter Health Initiative (SHI) caring for Windsor’s homeless population.

“I know not everyone is going to end up working at shelters,” Dr. Jennifer Bondy said Monday. “What I'm trying to do is open up people's minds to the possibility of other things that they might otherwise not have been exposed to in the past.

Dr. Bondy is the lead physician at SHI, which is part of H4, Windsor’s Homelessness and Housing Help Hub, located inside the former Water World building on Wyandotte Street East.

“I was expecting to see mental health and history of trauma and substance use and these kinds of things,” said Dr. Julia Petta “But what kind of surprised me is that the care that we're providing is the same as the care that I provided on my other family medicine rotation.”

The only difference being in many cases, the patients don’t have an OHIP card, according to both doctors.

“If somebody needs an x-ray and they don't have a health card, I'm usually not able to get that for them,” said Dr. Bondy who is hoping to one day to create a fund to help pay for healthcare concerns like that.

For now, she’s working to secure consistent funding for medical services so they can attract more doctors to work at SHI.

Dr. Bondy is waiting for a response from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care on their application, noting, “I understand it takes time.”

The care offered by doctors like Dr. Petta is just another spin-off benefit of hosting a satellite campus of the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, which is based at Western University in London.

Windsor’s satellite campus opened in 2008.

“Bring a medical school here and it's going to spur things on,” notes Dr. Bondy.

When local leaders started lobbying for the medical school, they promised it wouldn’t only be good for the University of Windsor, but would be a boon for the entire region.

Fifteen years later, officials say that has been proven.

Schulich Dean John Yoo told CTV News in March 2023, there is a 35 per cent increase in family doctors establishing a practice here and a 31 per cent increase in specialists working in Windsor-Essex hospitals.

“Schulich (medical school) Windsor, prior to April of this year did not have training available on site at shelters or drop in centers for people experiencing homelessness,” said Dr. Bondy who is proud of the work the team has been able to do to fill that void.

Dr. Petta, who will complete her SHI rotation in a week, said it’s been a great experience.

“I've told other resident med students that I've done this rotation and that it has been a positive experience. So hopefully more people will also be interested in doing it as well,” said Dr. Petta.

SHI also has a research component.

According to Dr. Bondy, researchers from the University of Windsor and St Clair College are studying “what the status quo is here in Windsor right now and what we could do to make things better.”

Finally, Dr. Bondy will welcome their first group of University nursing students in September, who will also be training at SHI.

“It is as simple as being here to provide primary care,” said Dr. Bondy. Top Stories

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