Eleven MSF staff are now providing nursing and logistics support at the London COVID CARE Centre, in partnership with the UCLH Find & Treat team. The project provides rapid testing, accommodation in which to self-isolate, and medical care, for members of the homeless community with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
Rosamund Southgate, medical coordinator for the MSF UK response said: “This partnership means we can help provide tailored support to a group who are particularly at risk from COVID-19 and who face unique challenges in protecting themselves during this outbreak. The COVID CARE Centre provides people facing homelessness with the space to self-isolate, as well as the medical support to help residents get better."
The team monitors and manages residents’ medical needs and, if necessary, refers them to hospital for further treatment. They also coordinate links to local GPs, as well as mental health and drug and alcohol services. The centre, which opened on 11 April, has capacity to host 60 residents and is currently treating 10 people, as of 28 April.
The centre is clinically managed by UCLH Find & Treat and is part of a wider 'COVID-19 Homeless Sector Plan' to prevent high mortality in this vulnerable group and minimise pressure on the NHS.
Dr Al Story, clinical lead of the Find & Treat service at UCLH, said: “UCLH Find & Treat, a mobile service that provides health care for vulnerable Londoners on the street, is starting London-wide Test and Triage outreach services. We are delighted to be working with MSF to deliver this crucial service.”
This represents the first time since it was founded in 1971 that MSF will provide medical assistance in the UK.
Vickie Hawkins, MSF UK executive director added: “This global emergency is touching each and every one of us, our families, our friends and our communities. We couldn’t stand on the side-lines in the UK and watch this from a distance when we have decades of experience in working during outbreaks.
“We have always worked to protect the most vulnerable communities in the world. Here in the UK, the homeless community are among the most marginalised and are more likely to be at risk because of pre-existing health conditions. Without dedicated care and support, they are extremely vulnerable to this virus”
MSF is a medical humanitarian organisation, working to save lives and ease the suffering of people in crisis situations in more than 70 countries.