Repercussions of federal cuts to refugee health care program: confusions, costs and compromised care

“The IFH Program is in disarray and being mismanaged and the health of all refugees is being placed at risk,” said Dr. Philip Berger, Chief of Family and Community Medicine at St. Michael’s Hospital.

Ottawa (05 Oct. 2012) - An investigation by Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care over the last three months has uncovered some disturbing findings regarding the impact of the changes to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) announced by the federal Conservatives in June.

“The IFH Program is in disarray and being mismanaged and the health of all refugees is being placed at risk,” said Dr. Philip Berger, Chief of Family and Community Medicine at St. Michael’s Hospital. “We advised the government from the beginning that these program cuts would reduce care, increase costs to other areas of the health system and needlessly threaten public safety, and regrettably, this is exactly what our colleagues are seeing in clinics and hospitals across Canada.”

The organizations has gathered firsthand examples of the treatment refugees are facing across the country, such as:

  • A refugee claimant, 36 weeks pregnant, is told by her obstetrician that IFH will no longer provide insurance for her pregnancy or delivery and to bring in $3000 for her next appointment. After weeks of anxiety and investigation, the IFH program admits they made a mistake and the woman will be covered;
  • A female refugee claimant, a senior with diabetes and chronic kidney disease, has her condition deteriorate because of lack of access to medication, regular blood testing and monitoring, and dietician education; and
  • A man requiring urgent eye surgery to prevent blindness is refused IFH coverage because he is said to be an “illegal migrant expected to leave the country.” Ten days later he receives notification from Citizenship and Immigration Canada that he is eligible for permanent residency status.

“The government is telling some of the most vulnerable members of society they are not eligible for important, possibly life saving health coverage,” said Dr. Meb Rashid, medical director of the Crossroads Clinic at Women's College hospital.

Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care is renewing its call for the federal government to reconsider its changes to the IFH Program. At the very least, the group recommends the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration conduct a thoughtful, thorough evaluation of the impact of the cuts to the IFH Program.

“Physicians will continue to track individual patient cases and report back on our findings,” said Dr. Rashid. “We are not going away until the government does the right thing and completely reverse these reckless health care cuts.”

More information:

Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care

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