One year later : The fight against the cuts to the federal health insurance plan for refugee claimants and refugees continues

A coalition of health care providers demands free and equitable access to health care for all these patients.

MONTREAL, June 17, 2013 /CNW Telbec/ - As part of a National Day of Action across Canada, a coalition of Quebec health care providers is demanding a reversal of the cuts imposed a year ago to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) for refugees, because of their disastrous impact on the health of very vulnerable patients and the xenophobic logic behind these cuts.

"These cuts are inhumane.  Making distinctions in medical coverage based on the category of refugees and their country of origin is discriminatory and arbitrary.  A large number of refugee claimants are completely deprived of any federal coverage for access to health care even when their lives are in danger, unless they suffer from a condition which might place others at risk", said Dr. Marie-Jo Ouimet, a family doctor who volunteers at the Projet Migrants run by Médecins du Monde.

Before the cuts, the IFHP offered refugee claimants and refugees coverage similar to that of low-income Canadians.  Following the cuts, many of them have lost access to so-called "complementary" care such as psychotherapy, rehabilitation services, and basic dental and vision care, as well as almost all types of medications.  During the last year, numerous examples of the harmful effects of these health care cuts have been documented.

Other provinces now partially compensate for the federal cuts by covering certain services for part of the population affected by the IFHP cuts. However, Quebec is the only province that has committed to covering medication and most medical services for all refugee claimants without distinction. "This commendable decision is a step in the right direction.  However, the Quebec government does not cover some of the services previously covered by the IFHP.  Furthermore, the administrative complexity of the provincial compensation system discourages many health professionals from providing health care to refugees.  Access to health care must be simplified and facilitated", demanded Dr. Camille Gerin, secretary-treasurer of Médecins québécois pour le régime public.

"The right to health does not depend on migratory status.  These cuts attack the well-being and dignity of our patients. We join our colleagues assembled in cities across Canada to denounce the Harper government cuts to the refugee health program and to demand their reversal, so as to guarantee free and equitable access to health care for all refugee claimants and refugees", concluded Dr. Juan Carlos Chirgwin, a family doctor at CLSC Park Extension who works with refugees.

SOURCE: Médecins québécois pour le régime public (MQRP)

For further information:

For interviews:
Samir Shaheen-Hussain, pediatrician and member of the Health Justice Collective: 514-830-3623

Montreal organizing committee for the Day of Action against the IFHP cuts:

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Médecins québécois pour le régime public (MQRP)

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