Ontario’s health minister is assuring residents with the old red-and-white health cards that they can still be used and that legitimate residents who still have the cards will not be denied medical care.

Deb Matthews says the province is continuing efforts to move residents over to the new, more secure green photo cards, but she insists those who still have their old cards can still use them.

“Whether you have a red+white OHIP card, or a green photo card, you'll continue to get great care in Ontario!” Matthews tweeted Friday.

In comments to The Canadian Press, she reiterated that, despite reports to the contrary, no one will be denied care if they are legitimate residents of Ontario.

"I think a lot of people are seeing the story and are worried that their health care somehow is in jeopardy if they have a red-and-white card," Matthews said Thursday.

"Nothing could be further from the truth."

Zita Astravas, Matthews’ press secretary tells CTV News that the only two circumstances in which a card would be cancelled without notification if is if there is fraudulent activity on the card, or fraudulent activity is suspected.

She says if there have not been any claims on a health card in more than seven years, the card would be suspended.

"This is done to protect the integrity of our system," she said in an email.

As well, as the province moves to have all residents upgrade to the new green cards, about 3,000 notices are sent every month asking residents to visit a ServiceOntario office to trade in their red-and-white cards for a photo card.

Residents are sent three notices to their home address telling them it’s time to change their cards. Only if all three notices are ignored would a card be suspended.

But Astravas stresses that if a cardholder hasn’t received any notices, the old cards are still valid and cardholders can continue to use them to receive health care.

“No changes have been made to this policy,” she said. “Service Ontario is not cancelling any cards arbitrarily.”

While the provinces says it is moving ahead with the phase-out of the old cards to the more secure cards, the process has been slow.

The newer green health cards were introduced in Ontario in 1995 and residents were told that the old red-and-white cards would be phased out by 2000. But more than 15 years after the new cards were introduced, around 3 million Ontarians still have the old cards.

In 2006, the province’s auditor general noted serious problems with the card system. The audit noted there were 305,000 more health cards circulating in the province than there were actual residents.

The auditor general recommended that the ministry of health expedite the conversion of the red-and-white cards to the photo cards.

Astravas says that 75 per cent of Ontarians now have the photo health card, and Service Ontario continues to convert the remaining red-and-white cards on an ongoing basis.

If red-and-white cardholders need to replace a lost, stolen card, or damaged card, they would be asked to re-register for a photo health card. They’d also be asked to get the newer care if there are changes to their personal information, such as a name change.

Both Matthews and Astravas said if someone has had their valid card cancelled by mistake and has had to pay for services at a walk-in clinic or elsewhere, they would be reimbursed that money after re-registering for the new card.