Health Care for Refugees: Campaigning Against Health Care Cuts

Article post by Sara Eftekhar (UBC Nursing student)

“All children need their shots!”, “all pregnant women need prenatal care!”, “all diabetics need their insulin!” were just some of the signs that were held up by 90 Canadian Physicians protesting in Toronto after Last week’s announcement by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to make changes to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP), effective June 30th, as part of the 2012 budget cuts.

The IFHP was a program started by the federal government to provide basic health-care coverage to those who do not qualify for provincial or territorial coverage which includes refugee claimants.

Refugee claimants already suffer in our society as one of the most marginalized groups in Canada and cutting the IFHP program means that, for example, treatment for diabetes, high-blood pressure and HIV will not be covered federally. The cuts in the program also means that health care services such as medications, dentistry, vision care and mobility devices will be cut.

The government expects the cuts will save taxpayers $100 million over five years. However, this decision will have many long-term negative effects and consequences for the Canadian health care system. Economically, in the long run, tax payers will suffer more, as emergency rooms and hospitals cost five times more than providing basic services.

John Kenney made a statement in an interview saying that many refugees in Canada receive dental and vision services which are much better than what the average Canadian receives but what he fails to consider is the complexities and social issues that many refugees face when arriving to Canada. Providing health care services are more than just health care to refugees, it is a way to integrate them into Canadian society which ultimately benefits the entire community.

Some of these Refugees in Canada have been ravaged by war, disease, drought, poverty and their health issues range from unusual infectious diseases to problems with transitioning in their new home. Refugees have lived through conditions unimaginable to most Canadian citizens.

Canada has always been committed to promoting international human rights and cutting health care funding for refugees is an injustice against our values as a country.

As health care professionals, we must stand in solidarity with refugees and raise our voice against any human rights violations that threaten our populations.

Therefore, health care professionals urge Minister Kenney to retract these proposed changes to Interim Federal Health. Please join us by doing your part and writing a letter to your member of parliament and raising awareness of the issue.  You can also sign a petition to ask Jason Kenny, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism to stop the pending changes to the Interim Federal Health program that will deny thousands of refugees in Canada access to primary health care and medications.

If you don’t know who your member of parliament is, you can find out at the following link:

Download a sample letter of what you can write to your MP here:

sample letter to constituents about health care cuts

Petition link:

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