Doctors and nurses enlisted to defy Ottawa’s refugee health cuts

Posted by admin on Jul 22nd, 2012

Nicholas Keung
Immigration Reporter–doctors-and-nurses-enlisted-to-defy-ottawa-s-refugee-health-cuts

Grassroots advocacy groups are enlisting doctors, nurses and other health professionals who will defy Ottawa and continue to treat refugee patients ineligible for coverage.

The groups — Health for All and No One Is Illegal — launched their “non-cooperation” campaign at a rally in Toronto on Sunday, as part of an ongoing national protest against the Conservative government’s recent cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) for refugees.

Health-care professionals — from midwives to doctors, acupuncturists, nurses, psychologists, social workers and other specialists — are urged to declare their commitment to refusing to follow the government plan by uploading their personal photos and messages on the campaign website.

To date, more than 50 people have already joined the campaign that started in Quebec on July 5.

“We are determined to reject these inhumane and draconian cuts that threaten the health and dignity of migrant communities who are already marginalized,” said Dr. Abeer Majeed, a Toronto family physician and Health for All’s spokesperson. “This is a call to continue the unprecedented mobilization of health-care providers and people in general to massively reject these cuts.”

Since June 30, all refugee claimants lost their supplemental health benefits for prescription drugs, dental work, vision care and medical devices, such as wheelchairs and walkers.

Failed refugees and asylum seekers from the government’s designated “safe countries” have been stripped of access to all government-funded health services such as seeing a doctor or being admitted into hospitals unless they pose a health risk to the public.

“With this reform, we are taking away an incentive from people who may be considering filing an unfounded refugee claim in Canada,” Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has said. “These reforms allow us to . . . ensure that tax dollars are spent wisely and defend the integrity of our immigration system all at the same time.”

Health ministers in Ontario and Quebec — where most refugees settle — had lobbied Ottawa against the reform, fearing that the cuts would end up downloading the cost to the provinces and jeopardizing public health.

Nanky Rai of No One Is Illegal said the health cuts are a pretext for Ottawa to promote its conservative ideology to portray migrants as “intruders and threats.”

“Regressive Conservative measures such as these are what constitute a threat to public health, not migrants,” Rai said.

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