[Toronto, ON – May 15, 2012] The federal association representing Community Health Centres across Canada today issued a severe Medicare alert, calling on Canadians to join in demanding the federal government reverse its decision to slash the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP).
The Canadian Association of Community Health Centres (CACHC) warns that slashing the IFHP – the federal program that funds various health services for refugees and refugee claimants welcomed into Canada by the federal government – poses serious health threats to many of our most vulnerable residents. The 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.
"Cutting the IFHP is unethical, ill-informed and it raises new threats to health and healthcare for everyone residing in Canada," declared CACHC’s Chair, Jane Moloney. "What we are hearing from Canadians across the country is that it is unacceptable for the federal government to deny basic human rights to those granted refuge in our country. That much is crystal clear. What the Canadian public perhaps realizes a bit less clearly at this point is that this cut is also a veiled attack on the health system that we all rely upon."
Moloney, who also directs a busy Community Health Centre in the north end of Halifax, described how the health of refugees and refugee claimants is very often fragile. As a result, access to health services and supports is an essential measure to prevent individuals and families from slipping into complex illness and further hardship. Tearing away federal support for these health services greatly increases the likeliness of illness, which will mean an even greater demand for scarce healthcare and social services resources.
"Since refugees and refugee claimants have been welcomed into Canada by the federal government, and have legal status here, we know that stripping them of federal health coverage doesn’t mean the matter ends there," Moloney stressed. "These 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 at a time when Canadians are looking for sound and far-sighted economic management from their governments."
The association pointed to local actions taking place around the country as indication that the Canadian public is tuning in to this mounting threat. In cities from coast to coast, those at the front lines of the health system – physicians, nurses, social workers and agencies like Community Health Centres – have been vigilantly sounding the alarm for days. This included protests last Friday on Parliament Hill and at MP constituency offices and other venues across the country.
"It’s beyond frustrating that this reckless game by the federal government means that healthcare providers need to divert their time and attention away from services in order to sound this public alarm," noted CACHC’s Federal Coordinator, Scott Wolfe. "This underscores the severity of the issue and what’s at stake for all Canadians – it is that serious. We are all urgently appealing for the federal government to step back from its attack on refugees, its attack on our provincial and municipal health services, and its attack on the dedicated health professionals and agencies across Canada whose ability to care for Canadians is being undermined."
The Canadian Association of Community Health Centres (CACHC) is among a growing list of federal, provincial/territorial and municipal agencies that have joined alongside Canada’s diverse healthcare professionals in demanding a reversal of the Interim Federal Health Program cuts. Canadians from coast to coast are being called on to join in efforts and are encouraged to add their names to an online petition calling on Minister Jason Kenney and the federal government to reverse these IFHP cuts. Members of the public are also encouraged to register their disapproval of the IFHP cuts by calling or emailing their local MP and sending an email to Minister Kenney at Kenney.J@parl.gc.ca, Minister@cic.gc.ca.
Media and other inquiries:
Scott A. Wolfe
CACHC Federal Coordinator
Other statements and coverage of recent actions may be found as follows:
"Government information on refugee healthcare changes is misleading and the consequences may be fatal to many"