One month after Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care released a number of examples of patients being denied access to necessary health services due to the cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) and its resulting confusion, the group is releasing another round of troubling cases.
Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care, a non-partisan group of physicians with firsthand experience treating refugees in cities and towns across the country, has been documenting specific patient cases since the changes to federally funded refugee health care services were announced June 30th.
The group is disappointed by the continued lack of a rational response from the federal government to its concerns. Following the last release of documented cases, the government’s public response was to question the group’s methodology and accuse it of having“purposely altered” the facts.
“Rather than trying to discredit the messenger and our evidence-based reports, we encourage the government to put reason over rhetoric and work with us to resolve this issue,” said Dr. Meb Rashid, medical director of the Crossroads Clinic at Women’s College hospital. “We continue to see the devastating impact of these IFHP cuts on patients and their families, and see the strain this is putting on our public health system.
All cases collected by Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care are provided by the refugee’s health care provider. Patients provided consent to their provider to disclose their stories. Their cases were rigorously vetted in some cases by independent chart reviews and by independent interviews with refugees and in other cases by speaking directly with the health care provider. All personally identifying information has been removed to protect the privacy and identity of the refugee, including age, country of origin, date of arrival and city/province of current residence. Most refugees are too frightened to speak publicly.
In addition to the individual cases that are brought to our attention, we continue to hear about refugees being denied access to health care or medical clinics refusing to treat patients, even with IFHP coverage, because of confusion surrounding the
program. Clinics that specialize in treating newcomers as well as free medical clinics are being inundated with patient requests that are far outstripping their capacity to provide important health services.
There also continues to be great anxiety about the public release of the list of Designated Countries of Origin – which will greatly reduce coverage for some refugees including for heart attack patients and pregnant women and their babies.
“We want to work with the government to resolve this issue now – before there is a medical emergency we are unable to treat,” said Dr. Philip Berger, Chief of Family and Community Medicine at St. Michael’s Hospital. “It is time for the Minister to finally talk to the doctors treating refugees and meet with the major Canadian health organizations opposed to these cuts.”
Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care has recently submitted a proposal to Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney that it believes offers a workable resolution to the issue while restoring necessary health coverage for refugees. The group will provide a public update as to the contents and status of this proposal in the near future.
The following is a new sampling of patient outcomes as reported by physicians:
· A teenager with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and previous suicide attempts who has valid IFHP coverage is cut off from essential psychiatric medications
· A young girl from an area with malaria has a high fever but does not have health coverage to rule out malaria as she awaits her IFHP to be initiated
· A child with a potentially contagious rash is turned away from a clinic because her IFHP coverage, although valid, was not accepted by the clinic.
· A child with cough, fever and vomiting is only able to access care at a free clinic due to confusion around IFHP coverage
· Two children with severe asthma cannot get the medications they require to treat their illness due to delays in initiating IFHP coverage which have been occurring routinely since June 30, 2012
· A woman arrives in Canada pregnant but cannot get adequate testing to monitor her pregnancy as she awaits her IFHP coverage to be implemented
· A woman very late in her pregnancy is turned away by her regular doctor despite being eligible for IFHP coverage.
“This is about a vulnerable population not receiving access to health care,” said Dr. Rashid. “Our compassionate instincts as Canadians and the evidence points to the IFHP cuts being bad policy. Let’s fix this now.”
More information is available at: www.doctorsforrefugeecare.ca.
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