Risks Of Refugee Health Cuts Starting To Show

Canadian citizens and doctors have been fighting the Harper government’s changes to refugee health care every way they know how and now they have proof of the side effect the cuts can cause.

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:

  1. 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;
  2. Cutting preventative and primary health care is poor health policy that threatens public safety and increases cost to taxpayers, and
  3. 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.

Related Stories:

Canadians Fighting Back On Cuts To Refugee Health Care

Canada Sending Aid To Syrian Refugees

Tories Deny Care To Less Fortunate

Photo Credit: Takver


Vicky P.
Vicky P5 years ago

very sad

Debbie L.
Debbie Lim5 years ago

This is outrageous. I'm just wondering what they're going to do with all the extra money. War? This is what happens when Harper is in power...

Myriam G.
Myriam G5 years ago

Thank you, Dr Wong.
Thank you, thank you, thank you...

Maureen Hawkins
Maureen Hawkins5 years ago

Sue H. You're right--after all, he just "solved" the problem of a 10 year backlog in processing immigration applications by canceling all of the applications. Hmm, I wonder if applications by millionaires got canceled? Maybe not; they were probably ushered to the head of the queue whenever they applied.

Mary B.
Mary B5 years ago

Don't let our health care system be eroded by politicians.......Folks DO get sick waiting for that same government to make decisions on their fate........

Mary L.
Mary L5 years ago

Here is the link to the Canadian Doctors for Refugee Health Care http://www.doctorsforrefugeecare.ca/

It is important to distinguish between refugees and immigrants. Refugees do not come illegally. They are given asylum due to persecution in their home countries. They are not willing immigrants and have no assets except their gratitude and talents. It is common in the U.S.- and probably Canada - to confuse the two. Refugees are provided FOR A LIMITED PERIOD OF TIME in the U.S. with human services like health care.

Danielle B.
Danielle B.5 years ago

Mark and Debbie, this article is about Canada's healthcare system, not the United States unless you think the two countries are one in the same (which we aren't).

Mark K.
Mark Kahle H5 years ago

Debbie W..... No one wants to deny immigrants anything in the US, no one.

Illegal immigrants are quite a different matter. The first law was broken when they set foot across the border.

Dengue fever is NOT contagious person to person, never was, and was not a concern at Ellis.

Ellis Island had doctors, food, recovery and isolation for the ill... and many services for IMMIGRANTS.... they had nothing but a ticket home for ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS.

Debbie Wood
Debbie Wood5 years ago

When I think of our government here in the US wanting to stop healthcare for immigrants, I shudder. When people were coming into Elis Island the first thing that they had to do was be examined by a doctor. They caught and stopped all kinds of diseases from entering this country that way. The people were treated kindly, given treatment and when cured allowed to enter the country. There are numerous diseases that could spread rapidly if they were brought into this country or any country by immigrants, like TB, dengue fever, and many others. Public health is at stake here.

Michael Barth
Michael Barth5 years ago

Sad to hear this.