Refugee health changes a concern: Ontario Doctors

TORONTO, June 17, 2012 /CNW/ - Ontario's doctors are concerned that planned refugee health cuts will impact the delivery of care and increase provincial health costs.

Under the new Interim Federal Health Program rules, the federal government will no longer cover health care for certain refugee categories, even if the patient is pregnant, diabetic or having a heart attack. This will result in dangerous health complications, but also transfer the burden of paying for this care to the province, the treating hospital or the emergency physician who sees these patients.

Regardless of the new policy, if a patient goes to the Emergency Department with a heart attack, they will still be treated. It's just that the federal government will no longer pay for that treatment, and it also appears that they are getting out of the business of providing care that may actually prevent that heart attack in the first place.

The OMA supports the position of national physicians' groups and allied health organizations who have asked the federal government to take another look at these new rules. The OMA also urges the provincial government to weigh in on how these changes will impact the provincial delivery of health care services.

Ontario's doctors are especially concerned that:

  • The lack of drug coverage now, will result in more serious health complications later, and with them, an increased cost of treatment;
  • Physicians who suspect a communicable disease, like tuberculosis, are being asked to perform diagnostic tests to determine if there is a threat of public infection, but the government will only pay for these tests if the results come back positive;
  • The new rules for different classes of refugees and limiting coverage to new definitions of what is medically urgent or essential, questions physicians' judgement and confounds the delivery of care.

The OMA stresses that a physician's expertise is to offer treatment tailored to the medical condition of the patient before them, not at categorizing patients and their potential illnesses based on their political status.

The changes to the Interim Federal Health Program are to come into effect on June 30, through an Order in Council. Physicians in several parts of Canada are participating in a Day of Action on June 18, to protest these changes.


"It appears that those who are sick are being dissuaded from seeking medical treatment, and physicians are being encouraged not to perform tests on patients suspected of having a communicable disease. We need clarification, because that cannot be the intended outcome."

"The proposed policies are medically impractical and could cause considerable harm. We need the federal and provincial governments to ensure that any changes to refugee health policies don't put patients at risk."

Dr. Doug Weir
Ontario Medical Association

SOURCE Ontario Medical Association

For further information:

Director of Public Affairs, Derek Tupling at (647) 302-1600

OMA Media Relations at (416) 340-2862 or
toll-free at 1-800-268-7215 ext. 2862

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