NEWS RELEASE - June 4, 2012

Cuts to refugee health care a race to the bottom: Docs and CHCs

June 4, 2012

TORONTO – The federal government shouldn’t be reducing access to health care for refugees, it should be increasing care for all Canadians, according to doctors and Community Health Centres across Canada.

“The federal government’s vision of health care is a race to the bottom, in which all Canadians should expect less in terms of health care coverage,” said Dr. Danielle Martin, chair of Canadian Doctors for Medicare. “Jason Kenney has fundamentally misunderstood this issue – he should be worried that a quarter of Canadians don’t have pharmaceutical coverage, not that a small number of refugees do have it.”

The federal government recently announced it would be changing the Interim Federal Health Program to cut most health care benefits for refugees. This includes pharmaceutical care, but also cuts basic primary health care for different classes of refugees. In some cases, refugees will only receive basic emergency response or medicine if a public health concern is identified – for instance, if a refugee presents at hospital with signs of tuberculosis.

Under the new rules, refugees with preventable health issues that could be detected and dealt with early, will be left until later when their issues are more expensive and more devastating. Continuing to provide primary health care would be more equitable, and much more cost-effective for all residents of Canada.

“These cuts won’t make Canada’s health care system more equitable, and they definitely won’t save Canada money. In fact, the cuts simply pass the buck to provinces, whose emergency departments and Community Health Centres will be forced to absorb the costs of serving this population. All Canadians should be concerned about the impact of these cuts – they mean we all pay more, but get less in return,” said Jane Moloney, Chair of the Canadian Association of Community Health Centres and Executive Director of Halifax’s North End Community Health Centre.

Community Health Centres, which currently serve a high proportion of refugee populations across the country, are bracing for the public crisis that will result if cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program proceed. Across Canada, these centres are currently overstretched in their capacity to meet existing needs and are alarmed that cuts to the IFHP mean most refugees and their families will have nowhere to turn except once they have become critically ill.

“The federal government is forcing doctors and other health providers to choose between their professional obligations to provide preventive care and to treat ill and injured people, and we urge them to revoke this thoughtless change,” said Martin. “We believe that all Canadians, including refugees to our country, should receive these essential benefits.”

For more information:
Scott A. Wolfe
Federal Coordinator, Canadian Association of Community Health Centres
416-922-5694 /

Ellen Bayley
Canadian Doctors for Medicare

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