The Ottawa Newcomer Health Centre (ONHC) has had tremendous growth since 2008. A small initiative started by a couple of physicians form Bruyere Academic Family Health Team, the Catholic Centre for Immigrants, Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership and a few other champions who saw a problem and put their minds together to come up with a solution. The challenge we faced was that we had newcomers arriving in Ottawa who didn’t have a place to access immediate healthcare services. The solution was to bring health care providers to the newcomers staying at Maison Sophia (aka Reception House). Although, far from ideal, this provided some level of health care to newcomers who were not able to access health care services. The leadership and employees of Somerset West Community Health Centre was heavily involved and provided clinical and administrative services on site at Maison Sophia.
As demand increased, individuals who were involved in this initiative started to apply for funding making the case for the need to have a dedicated centre for newcomer health. Through collaboration and efforts from those involved, we went from being called Reception House to Wellness Centre to finally being known as Ottawa Newcomer Health Centre. What started out in a small storage room with unstable funding has transformed to a permanent health centre with stable and ongoing funding to serve newcomers to Ottawa. However, what remains constant is the dedication and passion of those involved.
Majority of ONHC’s staff have lived experience as a newcomer to Canada. Over 80% of ONHC’s team is either first or second-generation immigrants. So, we know what it’s like to be confused about the healthcare system and how it works, to be overwhelmed by the number of forms to be filled or be unaware of how to find a primary care provider. Our priorities include health system education, system navigation and advocacy. We strive for timely, coordinated and culturally appropriate care. Here’s a look at how far we’ve come from our humble beginnings.