Canadian health providers protest cuts to refugee health
Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star
Canadian Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, has tabled sweeping changes to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP), which provides health insurance for refugees who arrive in Canada. At present the IFHP provides medical coverage to refugees and refugee claimants that is similar to that provided by provincial health coverage plans. The changes would mean that refugees and refugee claimants would be denied access to essential medical coverage and preventive care. An excellent breakdown of the details of the changes can be found here.
Health providers and numerous organizations across the country have voiced their opposition to the cuts to refugee healthcare. On May 11th Canadian physicians protested at the office of Mp Joe Oliver in a bid to draw attention to the impending cuts. Major healthcare providers, including the Canadian Medical Association and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada have written an open letter to Jason Kenney highlighting the deleterious effects of the changes and asking him to rescind this decision. The Wellesley Institute conducted a Health Equity Impact Assessment (HEIA) of the proposed changes to the IFPH which concluded that the negative health impacts of the planned changes to the IFHP will be severe and inequitable. Women and children will be at particular risk of adverse consequences. Ontario nurses have even said that people may end up losing their life due to the loss of coverage
Dr. Philip Berger, head of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at St. Michael’s Hospital called the changes inhumane. To illustrate his point he cited the example of one of the reforms which says that persons from countries deemed to be ‘safe’ (called Designated Countries of Origin) will not receive coverage for heart attacks. Health providers have stressed that a lack of primary and preventive care will lead to people reaching emergency rooms sicker and potentially posing a greater public health hazard. By increasing costs for hospital emergency departments and by extension the provincial government, these cuts threaten to affect the health care access of all Canadians.
June 18 has been declared a national day of protest against the cuts to refugee healthcare.
Societies are judged by how they treat their most vulnerable. Refugees are some of the most traumatize members of our communities. Targeting them in such a narrow-minded way does not represent what Canada should be standing for.