June 18th National Day of Action against cuts to refugee health care

In April 2012, the federal government announced drastic cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) – a Citizenship and Immigration Canada funded program that provides health coverage to refugees, refugee claimants, and others. The reductions are due to come into effect on June 30th, 2012, and in response organizations across the country are sounding the alarm. Health care workers and refugee rights advocates from Vancouver, Calgary, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Toronto, Kitchener, Windsor, Hamilton, Ottawa, Montreal, St. John’s, and Halifax will be standing up in solidarity against the IFHP cuts on June 18th, 2012. The Halifax demonstration will be held at noon on Grand Parade Square.

Present in the growing and diverse list of organizations demanding the federal government revise or rescind the cuts are the College of Family Physicians of Canada, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, the Canadian Association of Social Workers, the Canadian Dental Association, the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Nurses Association, the Canadian Pharmacists Association, Canadian Doctors for Medicare, the Canadian Council for Refugees, and the Canadian Association of Community Health Centres.

Jane Moloney, Chair of the Canadian Association of Community Health Centres and Executive Director of the North End Community Health Centre declares that “cutting the IFHP is unethical, ill-informed and it raises new threats to health and healthcare for everyone residing in Canada”. For example, the cuts will deny coverage for essential medications to refugees our government resettles and welcomes into Canada. Refugees who have been resettled to Halifax have spent an average of 17 years in camps and often arrive with complex health problems and a vital need for comprehensive health coverage – coverage that must include prescription medications. Not only are these cuts irresponsible, but they are hypocritical to the core.

Dr. M. Rashid, Medical Director of the Crossroads Clinic at Women’s College Hospital, a clinic that serves newly arrived refugees in Toronto, states that “(a)lmost universally, [refugees] will not be in a position to purchase their medications. As of June 30th, most will stop taking their medications. This last week alone, I have sat with a mother in tears because she will no longer be able to purchase anti-seizure medication for her child with epilepsy. I have spoken to women with diabetes who will no longer be able to purchase their insulin.”

The Canadian Association of Community Health Centres issued a severe Medicare alert on May 15, 2012, and cautions that “(t)he fallout from the poorly-conceived policy will also place major new burdens on provincial health systems and all Canadians who, collectively, will be forced to shoulder the financial and health services impact.” Jane Moloney further explains that “(t)hese families will still arrive in our Community Health Centres, in our hospital emergency rooms, at our local public health units and other health services; except now, instead of receiving routine preventive care and support, they will be presenting with more acute, complex illnesses, requiring vastly more provincial and local health dollars to be tapped. Cutting the IFHP means a trickle of savings for the federal government’s bottom-line, but it will amount to exponentially greater financial and health service losses for provinces and municipalities, and for all Canadians, since we all rely on these services. This is a disastrous economic game for the federal government to be playing. . .”

Dr. M. Rashid remarks that “(r)efugee women from designated countries of origin will no longer have access to any care – none; no prenatal care, intrapartum care or post-natal care. They will not have access to “urgent or essential” care nor to contraception advice. . .” This drastic situation will have another severe effect in Nova Scotia. As Gillian Zubizarreta, Settlement Coordinator at the Halifax Refugee Clinic points out, “(b)abies born in Nova Scotia to refugee claimant parents are denied provincial health coverage due to the status of the parents. Currently, the baby falls under the mother’s IFH coverage. As a result we will have babies in our province who will be refused basic health care. This is in direct contravention to the Canada Health Act, to the rights of these babies, and will surely have detrimental effects on their health.”

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More information is available at: www.doctorsforrefugeecare.ca

Media and other inquiries:

Jane Moloney, PhD

Executive Director

North End Community Health Centre

(902) 422 5642 x1

jmoloney@nechc.com

Chair, Canadian Association of Community Health Centres www.cachc.ca