Doctors Of The World In Canada – Filling The Gaps In Montreal’s Inner City

Colombe Grenier met Roger at the Médecins du Monde offices and he accompanied her on her regular Thursday tour of the streets from Atwater to St. Denis.
Colombe is a nurse with 24 years experience. She has worked with Médecins du Monde in Afghanistan and Haiti. Her last two years have been spent in Montreal.
She describes her work as "boucher les troys dans the système de santé" (filling the holes in the healthcare system) and working with people who fall through the cracks.
The Médecins du Monde street nurses always pair up with someone from another agency. On this day, Colombe works with Chad Diabo from the Native Friendship Centre of Montreal.
When Médecins du Monde provides care on the street, they don't ask for full names, just a way of keeping track. If someone wants to use a nickname, all they ask is that he call himself that each time they treat him.
Chad and Colombe stop and talk to a young man who has been injured in an altercation. They ask no questions about the event, just about his health.
Colombe cleans and bandages his wound. She says that for some people Médecins du Monde is the "seul lien avec le système de santé." (The only link to the health system.)
Both Colombe and Chad carry a heavy load of supplies for the day. Colombe's backpack includes a blood pressure cuff, mask, blood sugar tester, compresses, bandages, cleaning solution, plastic bags, alcohol swabs, granola bars and socks.
The health risks of living on the street include poor nutrition, frostbite, and "maladie chronique sans suivi." (chronic illness without being followed by a doctor)
Médecins de Monde does not itself as a parallel health system. Staff like Colombe always encourage people to get back into the public health system.
Colombe provides basic, immediate care but when a problem is beyond street treatment, she will refer patients to a doctor or hospital and help them get to their appointment.
Part of Colombe's job is education. She talks to her clients about the risk of mixing medicines, drugs and drinking and always encourages them to "try to eat something."
Colombe walks an average of 6 or 7 km on her morning tour of duty. She then exchanges her backpack for a medical bag and takes the Metro to her afternoon shift at the Native Friendship centre.

Photography: Roger Lemoyne

For more than 20 years Médecins du Monde has been providing medical care to refugees, street children and displaced persons around the world: people living in the midst of armed conflicts and victims of natural disasters, famines and epidemics. Photojournalist Roger Lemoyne has been covering international issues for more than a decade and has worked alongside Médecins du Monde in such places as Kosovo and Haiti. He was very surprised to hear Médecins du Monde was also providing care in his hometown of Montreal. He spent a day on the street with one of their nurses.

For more information on Médecins du Monde Canada visit: Website:

Address: 338 rue Sherbrooke Est Montreal, QB H2X 1E6

Phone: 1-514-281-8998

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