Doctors’ protest interrupts Pan Am Games event in Toronto

Posted by admin on Jul 10th, 2012

Cuts to interim federal health program for refugees provoke another cabinet minister protest

Doctors concerned about the Harper government’s recent cuts to refugee health benefits have disrupted another public appearance by a cabinet minister.

Amateur Sport Minister Bal Gosal was speaking at a promotional event for the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto when he was interrupted by four doctors wearing their white coats who approached the stage yelling.

“What about health care for refugees? What about medications for our patients?” yelled the protesters.

“How can you look your cabinet colleagues in the face?” added Gary Bloch, who identified himself to reporters later in a scrum as a family physician at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

“Ask Minister Kenney why diabetics can’t get insulin,” another doctor added as Gosal stopped his remarks.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford walked to the podium when the doctors approached the stage and advised Gosal to sit down. He remained standing at the podium as security escorted the doctors away from the stage, and then asked Gosal to resume his speech.

The government announced changes to the Interim Federal Health Plan in the spring, saying it was reducing benefits for refugees to bring them in line with the kind of health services provided to all Canadians, saving $20 million a year over five years. On the eve of the changes taking effect, the government “clarified” its policy to maintain supplemental benefits for government-sponsored refugees.

Bloch said later in a scrum that some of his patients are now cut off from their access to medication, diagnostic tests or even doctor’s visits entirely since the changes took effect July 1.

“It really is a travesty and it’s one of the scariest things I’ve seen in my time as a physician,” Bloch said.

The doctors are affiliated with what they called an “ad hoc group,” Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care.

A doctor and a medical student affiliated with another group, Health for All, interrupted an announcement by Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver last month.

More protests at events featuring Conservative cabinet ministers and MPs are planned to continue to voice their concerns, the doctors said Tuesday.

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