Health care workers to hold National Day of Action June 18th to protest planned federal government cuts to refugee health services

Posted by admin on Jun 12th, 2012

Unprecedented events being organized in 10 cities across the country

Health care workers united in opposition to planned reductions in health care coverage for refugees are holding a national day of action in hopes of persuading the federal government to reverse course. Physicians, nurses, community health workers and many others from a number of different professional health disciplines will be participating in demonstrations in 10 cities from coast to coast on Monday, June 18th. The health care workers are deeply concerned that the changes to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) scheduled to take effect June 30, 2012 will lead to poorer health outcomes for some of the most vulnerable members of society, increase health care costs and threaten public safety.

“Many health care workers, especially in urban areas throughout Canada, treat refugees on a daily basis,” said Dr. Meb Rashid, medical director of the Crossroads Clinic at Women’s College hospital. “We listen to their stories of enduring war and violence and being separated from their families. We believe it is inhumane to deny them access to the health care they need to begin their new lives in Canada. This is at the heart of why we are demonstrating on June 18th.

The federal government recently announced plans to cut important health care services for refugees as of June 30, 2012. For example, many refugees accepted to, and living in, Canada will no longer qualify for coverage for necessary medications such as insulin. Some refugee claimants will also be denied access to physicians unless their condition is deemed a threat to public health or safety. Among other health care services to be cut for some or all refugees are: prenatal care for pregnant women, well child care and access to mental health care.

Health care workers will also be using the demonstrations as an opportunity to clarify some of the facts over the planned IFHP changes, such as:

  • There will not be cost savings. Restricting access to preventive care leads to repeated emergency room visits and hospitalizations that increase costs to the health system.
  • The risks to public safety will be greater. Most patients only pose a public health risk if they are not properly engaged in health care. For example, if a person with tuberculosis is only offered care after they become very sick, they will likely have already infected others.
  • These changes do not bring fairness to the health system. Refugees do not currently receive better health care than other Canadians. In fact, IFHP coverage does not provide broader insurance than what is available to another vulnerable population, low-income Canadians.
  • We need not fear refugees abusing the health system. Engaging vulnerable populations in preventative and primary care is challenging enough as it is, and access to a high standard of health care would be a low priority for refugees who are used to struggling just to survive.

“We encourage the federal government to listen to reason and act with compassion,” said Dr. Gary Bloch, a family physician with St. Michael’s Hospital. “Maintaining a healthy community means ensuring all members of the community – including refugees – receive basic, medically necessary care. This is the Canadian way.”

Schedule of events

  • Toronto – 1 pm -demonstration outside the Citizenship and Immigration Canada office at 25 St. Clair Avenue East
  • Hamilton – 1 pm -demonstration outside the Citizenship and Immigration Canada office  at 55 Bay Street
  • Ottawa – Noon –demonstration on Parliament Hill
  • Montreal – 12:30 pm – demonstration outside the Citizenship and Immigration Canada office at 1010 St. Antoine Ouest
  • St. John’s – There will be a press conference held, details TBC, please check
    for updates
  • Winnipeg – Noon –Demonstration at the Forks Plaza
  • Saskatoon – Noon –Demonstration and parade at Kiwanis Memorial Park
  • Calgary – Noon –Demonstration at Harry Hays Building at 220 4th Ave SE
  • Edmonton – Demonstration to be held, details TBC, please check for
  • Vancouver – Noon –demonstration outside the Citizenship and Immigration Canada office at 1148 Hornby Street

Among the health care organizations supporting the national day of action on June 18th:

Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care * College of Family Physicians of Canada * Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada * Canadian Association of Optometrists * Canadian Association of Social Workers *
Canadian Dental Association * Canadian Medical Association * Canadian Nurses Association * Canadian Pharmacists Association * Canadian Association of Community Health Centres * Canadian Association of Midwives * Canadian Paediatric Society * Canadian Psychiatric Association * Association of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Canada * Canadian Federation of Medical Students

More information is available at:

For more information or to arrange an interview please contact:

Christopher Holcroft
Empower Consulting

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