ER doctor protests calls cancellation of health-care coverage for refugees disgraceful

Posted by admin on Jul 8th, 2012

by Alex Weber

What was supposed to be a run-of-the-mill funding announcement Thursday quickly turned sour when police were called to remove an emergency room doctor from the London Employment Help Centre.

Diane Finley, minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, was at the centre to announce federal government funding for three local organizations to help improve their accessibility.

But her remarks were delayed by Dr. Tarek Loubani.

Loubani, an emergency room doctor at London Health Sciences Centre, was protesting the Conservative government’s recent changes to refugee health care in Canada.

The changes mean refugees whose claims are pending or have not been accepted can’t access a variety of health care services including hospital care, prenatal care, dental and vision services and mental health care, unless their condition is a threat to greater public health.

The government had originally said it was cutting health care to all refugees, but quietly changed the information on its website Friday afternoon.

Loubani, who came to Canada in 1991 as a Pakistani refugee when he was 10, called the changes disgraceful.

“As a physician, I certainly understand that it’s not possible for me to do my job properly when people are worried about money and when I have to separate the patients who are allowed to receive care and the patients who are not,” he said.

“As a refugee, certainly, I understand the system is not just something given to freeloaders, but something given to people who are in need. . . I cannot just stand silently, that would mean my complicity in this and I cannot be complicit.”

Loubani was escorted out of the building by three London police officers, delaying Finley’s announcement by about 30 minutes.

After thanking people for their patience and reiterating the government’s stance on refugee health care, Finley announced the London Employment Help Centre, Scouts Canada and the London Potters Guild will receive money to improve accessibility.

Scouts Canada is getting $50,000 to improve accessibility in its washrooms, entrances and storage areas.

The London Potters Guild is receiving $50,000 to make its building more accessible. And the London Employment Help Centre is getting just under $12,600 to install automatic door openers and buy special computers for about 40 audio and visually impaired clients.

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