MONTREAL -- Tents housing pediatric clinics will pop up Thursday morning on a street corner in Montreal North, with the goal of allowing doctors to assess, treat and vaccinate vulnerable children whose medical monitoring may have been turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The DocTocToc non-profit organization is spearheading the initiative. The NGO's mission is to offer medical and psychosocial services to children under five who do not otherwise have access to health services.

The pilot project, described as "pop-up clinics" -- reflecting the fact that they're temporary and will suddenly pop up in a Montreal neighbourhood -- is a first for the organization.

Votre enfant est âgé de moins de 5 ans? Vous voulez le faire vacciner? Vous voulez rencontrer un pédiatre? Profitez-en!...

Posted by Doctoctoc on Wednesday, 19 August 2020

DocTocToc wants to have a continually operating mobile clinic to go and offer care to vulnerable people wherever they are.

While waiting for the money to obtain the necessary vehicle, they created this other project, noting that in Quebec, "the pandemic has exacerbated social inequalities in health."

One of the neighbourhoods most affected by COVID-19 is Montreal North.

"During the pandemic, the emphasis has been on screening for the virus, and care was refocused to the elderly, who were hit hard by the disease," said DocTocToc director Dr. Rislaine Benkelfat.

Also, families have been afraid to go to a clinic or hospital over fears of contracting the virus. Others did not have what was needed in terms of technology for the teleconsultations offered. Vaccination appointments have been postponed.

Even without a pandemic, there are great health-care needs among vulnerable populations, said the doctor -- a problem her organization was already tackling.

Early childhood is a crucial period when children develop very quickly, and it is important to act early to avoid certain health and development problems, the organization says.

The pilot project aims to offer families a one-stop-shop for medical consultation, screening for various medical and psychosocial problems and vaccination.

A team of doctors, nurses, social workers and community workers will meet families in the neighbourhood with children under five - without the need for an appointment.

The first pop-up clinics will be held in outdoor tents on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Place de l'Harmonie, at the corner of Rolland Blvd. and Rue Pascal.

They are being carried out in collaboration with the CIUSSS in Montreal North and the Parole d'ExcluEs organization.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 19, 2020.