Doctors, nurses to protest refugee health care cuts
Published Sunday, June 17, 2012 10:45PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, June 18, 2012 10:05AM EDT
Health care workers are expected to protest outside federal government offices across the country Monday against cuts to medical services currently provided to refugees.
Ottawa has said it can save about $20 million a year by ending free dental, vision and prescription drugs to all refugee claimants.
But health groups and refugee advocates have said the cuts will actually cost the health care system more in the long term.
They also said expectant mothers may go without prenatal care, while others with health problems could lose access to medications such as heart drugs and insulin.
"It's going to be a disaster for many, many people," Dr. Meb Rashid of the Crossroads Medical Clinic in Toronto told CTV News.
"We fully expect there will be an increase in the risk of complications from illnesses and that's expensive, so I'd be very surprised if there's any costs savings to this at all," he said.
Under the current system, health expenses for people seeking asylum who are awaiting a decision and those already accepted as refugees but aren't yet permanent residents are covered.
Health costs for those who live in a province where permanent residents have to wait for coverage under provincial medical plans have their expenses paid for by the federal government, as well.
Dental, vision care and prescription expenses currently received by those refugees who qualify are similar to what provinces offer people collecting social assistance.
The federal cuts will kick in June 30, cutting covered heath care expenses paid to thousands of refugees.
As well, those who come from countries the government deems safe to return to won't get any medical coverage at all, unless it's urgent or they pay for it.
"I have been working with refugees for 21 years, this is the first time that I'm seeing in their faces that they are scared with fear, desperation," refugee worker Loly Rico told CTV News.
The protests are designed to send a message not just to the government, but to average Canadians about how the changes will hurt innocent people, said Dr. Ritika Goel.
"To think about what it is, what type of society we want to live in," she said.
With a report from CTV medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip