Refugee Health Cuts Remain a Concern: Ontario Doctors

TORONTO, June 17, 2013 /CNW/ - One year after the implementation of a series of changes to federal coverage of refugee health care, Ontario's doctors are seeing a negative impact on the delivery of care.

Under the new Interim Federal Health Program rules, the federal government no longer covers health care for certain refugee categories, even in circumstances when the patient is in urgent need of care. It also transfers the burden of paying for this care to the province, specifically through hospital services, because patients will not be turned away.  If a patient goes to the Emergency Department in Ontario they will be treated, but the federal government no longer covers the cost of treatment, and it is up to the patient, hospital, or province, to pay the bill.  The impact of these cuts is two-fold:  First, if a patient has a complex condition and doesn't receive care because they don't have health coverage or can't afford it, treatment will cost the province more in the long run.  Second, it appears the program cuts are putting more pressure on Emergency Departments, physicians and nurses because patients with non-urgent health issues have nowhere else to go. The costs of uninsured patients have already started to rise in some Ontario hospitals.

Patients with non-urgent health issues are better managed by a primary care physician in a clinic or office and not in the Emergency Department.  Unfortunately, these program cuts make it harder for primary care physicians, because they are being asked to classify patients into refugee categories.  Physicians treat all patients equally based on their medical condition.   Doctors shouldn't be spending valuable treatment time trying to determine a patient's refugee status. And they certainly should not be forced to categorize patients based on refugee class to determine the kind of tests and treatment patients can afford.

It's clear the changes made a year ago are having a negative impact on refugees getting the care and treatment they need, which is in turn driving up Emergency Department visits and placing unnecessary stress on hospitals.  Ontario's doctors are calling on the federal government to reverse the changes made under the Interim Federal Health Program so patients can get the care they need. 

Dr. Scott Wooder
Ontario Medical Association

SOURCE: Ontario Medical Association

For further information:

OMA Media Relations at 416.340.2862 or toll-free at 1.800.268.7215, ext. 286 @OntariosDoctors


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