Refugees will die if health care cuts go ahead Ontario nurses say

Posted by admin on Jun 9th, 2012


Ontario nurses are urging the Harper government to scrap its plans to reduce health care coverage for refugee claimants or face the fact people will die. Ottawa announced in April it will strip thousands of refugees of health-care coverage starting in July unless their conditions pose a threat to public health. “Ontario’s nurses, like health-care professionals from across the country, are gravely concerned that these dangerous changes will threaten the lives and well-being of people who have already experienced trauma and hardship before they arrived in Canada,” Doris Grinspun, chief executive officer of Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, said in a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Currently, all refugees are covered by the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP), which provides basic health coverage, sometimes with supplementary services such as pharmaceutical care, dentistry, vision care and devices such as walkers and wheelchairs, if required.

The changes mean current and future refugees will no longer be eligible for vision, dental or supplemental health benefits while access to prescription drug benefits will be severely curtailed. Also, most refugees would not have access to hospital services or care provided by a nurse or physician, except in urgent situations.

Grinspun noted in her letter to Harper that Toronto Public Health has compiled evidence of the negative health impacts of reduced federal health services for individuals and the broader community.

“Not only are these cuts egregious from a health and human rights perspective, health professionals and their organizations from across the country reject the federal government’s claim that the proposed cuts will save money,” she wrote.

Grinspun said Citizenship and Immigration Canada might show a short-term savings of $20 million per year but added the provinces, territories, and taxpayers will end up having to pay the bill for complications of health conditions and emergency care.

“Some asylum-seekers will die, while others may experience complications if they hesitate to seek treatment. It is simply unconscionable that these cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program are even being considered. Not only are they unfair, they will harm people who are already vulnerable and cost the public purse more,” she stated in the letter.

In the letter, which was also sent to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, Grinspun urged McGuinty to mobilize “our provincial and territorial counterparts to stop cuts to the Interim Federal Health Programs.”

The association has launched a letter-writing campaign urging its 33,000 members to send letters to Harper and Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, asking them to rescind the planned changes.

Ana Curic, spokeswoman for Kenney, said the RNAO’s claims are “false and irresponsible.”

“These changes are not about refugees, but about asylum seekers, including ‘claimants’ from European countries, and persons whose refugee claims have been rejected by the independent Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). All persons found by the IRB to be genuinely in need of Canada’s protection, as well as resettled refugees, have access to provincial health care, the same as any other Canadian,” she said.

Curic said the Harper government doesn’t believe that Canadian taxpayers should have to pay for health care and supplemental benefits for failed refugee claimants.

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