The government cut access to health care for all refugees waiting for their applications to go through except in cases of threats to public health. Doctors have warned the government that people could die due to these changes, even interrupting minister’s press conferences to speak out against them. On June 18, more than 2,000 health care professional held a national day of action protesting the changes. The cuts took effect June 30, 2012.
Now the Toronto Star has found a striking example of what the cuts could really mean for the people coming to this country after escaping their own. Surgeons in Toronto defied the government’s new legislation and operated on a Colombian refugee who otherwise would have lost his sight. Daniel Garcia Rodriguez, a refugee trying to escape paramilitary groups in Colombia, was suffering from chronic retinal detachment. His doctor, David Wong, requested an exemption so that he could save the man’s eyesight but was denied – so he went ahead with the surgery and absorbed the costs.
Doctors are very concerned about refugees losing access to life-saving prescriptions, such as insulin for diabetics.
A spokesperson for Canadian Doctors for Refugee Health, Dr. Philip Berger, said the Immigration Minister is playing a dangerous game of chicken.
“It is not a game,” he told The Star. “It is people’s lives. It is hideous and outrageous that the government keeps saying refugees are getting gold-plated health care, better than what Canadians get.”
Canadian Doctors for Refugee Health Care is arguing that:
- Canada’s approach to medically treating refugees should be guided by fairness and sound public health policy; the federal government’s planned changes meet neither criteria;
- Cutting preventative and primary health care is poor health policy that threatens public safety and increases cost to taxpayers, and
- The government’s plans to cut health services to refugees residing in this country – some of whom will have just escaped war, violence or famine – is unjust and counter to Canada’s long history of compassion and openness.
The Harper government is standing firmly behind their cuts that the Official Opposition NDP calls an attack on basic Canadian values. It seems unlikely that any voice, whether from a Canadian voter or a health care expert, will manage to change this idea of the Conservative government, that all refugees should be seen as untrustworthy until proven otherwise.
Photo Credit: Takver