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Lunch 'n' Learn Webinar: Working with uninsured clients during the COVID pandemic and beyond: tips, tools, and how to become an exemplar organization

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Health has established mechanisms to enable people who are not currently insured to access medically necessary hospital and primary care (including mental health care) services. Although many primary healthcare teams are already providing comprehensive primary health care for many uninsured clients, this policy change makes it easier for them to access hospital care.

On Friday, November 27, we presented a webinar along with a number of partner organizations, titled Working with uninsured clients during the COVID pandemic and beyond: tips, tools, and how to become an exemplar organization. This webinar covered:

  • The current situation when it comes to hospital care for uninsured clients in Ontario;*
  • The skills, resources and approaches organizations need in order to provide exemplary care for uninsured clients;
  • Tips and practical advice for navigating uninsured patients through health, legal and social supports.

The webinar was recorded for the benefit of those who missed it or would like to re-watch it or share it with colleagues. 

Key Messages

  • Medically necessary hospital services are currently covered by Ministry of Health for uninsured patients in Ontario.
  • Systemic and practical barriers continue to prevent some uninsured people from accessing care they’re entitled to, or make them feel unsafe in doing so.
  • Remove as many barriers as possible from your own practice. Examine how systemic racism and oppression affect your clients and your own work. Ensure that client confidentiality will be respected. Make interpretation available.
  • Warm hand-offs and advocacy are essential when referring your clients to other primary care services or to hospitals. Accompany where possible; provide Ministry directives and advocacy letters; offer care coordination, system navigation, and holistic supports.
  • Your clients also face barriers to accessing income supports, sick leave, education, housing and other supports they are legally entitled to.
  • You are not alone! To build your network, consider:

Resources and guidance documents

The resources listed below will help you turn these learnings into practice for yourself and your organizations:

Additionally, this page provides downloadable, client-facing brochures to help access care when they don't have OHIP. These brochures are available in both standard and plain English, as well as  French, Tigrinya, Somali, Farsi, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, Arabic, and Tamil. 

In your advocacy, please refer to these Ministry of Health policy documents that mandate and clarify funding for physician and hospital services for non-insured clients during COVID-19:

Panelists & Presenting Partners

The following panelists shared their knowledge and experiences:

  • Nadjla Banaei works at the South Riverdale Community Health Centre as a Client Care Coordinator and has over 17 years of experience in the community health centre sector as a mental health professional. Nadjla has worked extensively with individuals experiencing precarious immigration status. She co-chairs the Health Network for Uninsured Clients. 
  • Rebecca Cheff combines research, policy analysis and convening to develop and advance strategies for change. She co-chairs the Health Network for Uninsured Clients and is a researcher at Wellesley Institute.
  • Simone Donaldson is a Registered Clinical Social Worker and consultant at Agapé Lens Consulting and Therapy, who uses an Afro-centric, anti-Black racist and trauma-informed lens to inform her practice. She has vast experience in community health with a focus on the social determinants of health for racialized communities. Simone provides individual psychotherapy for youth and adults in the Black community. She also provides consultation in the private, public, and non-profit sectors to improve their cultural and wellness lens. 
  • Tysa Harris is an admin supervisor at Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre, and has worked in community health centres for 25 years in various frontline positions, primarily in medical administration. Tysa has extensive experience working with uninsured clients, including triage and intake; building and navigating clinical pathways; and, advocating with hospitals and specialist offices around fees.
  • Shalini Konanur is a lawyer and the Executive Director of the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario (SALCO). SALCO provides direct legal services to low-income racialized clients and to advocates for systemic change to support those communities. SALCO works with large populations of non-status people in Ontario and continues to push for reform in income supports, immigration, education, and health care for those populations. 

The following organizations participated as presenters, organizers, and sponsors:

  • Centre Talks Committee, MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions
  • Health Network for Uninsured Clients
  • Wellesley Institute
  • South Riverdale Community Health Centre
  • Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre
  • South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario
  • Agape Lens Consulting


November 27 and December 11, 2020, from 12:00-1:30pm