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Refugee care must be a priority: CMA

Proper health care for all refugees in Canada is an urgent issue that should not be postponed because of the current federal election campaign.

That’s the stance of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), whose Board of directors recently served notice that the association is not prepared to let the issue drop.

CMA President Cindy Forbes has sent a letter to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Chris Alexander, expressing her continued concern with the state of health care coverage for refugees.

She noted that despite the 2014 federal court decision requiring the federal government to restore coverage for all refugees to levels prior to the changes to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) in 2012, some refugees are still not receiving full coverage.

“The challenges and struggles facing refugees fleeing war torn countries such as Syria has garnered international attention and contributed to the increased interest by Canadians to pursue private sponsorship of refugees.”

These privately sponsored refugees currently do not receive full health care coverage in Canada.

“The CMA strongly objects to such an inequitable approach,” Forbes wrote.

At its recent meeting, Board members spoke vehemently about the need for the federal government to urgently redress its stance with respect to refugee health.

“We’re more than just doctors, we’re citizens. We have a social duty to take action,” said Board member Dr. Pierre Harvey.

“We’re all seeing these people (ineligible refugee patients) and who is refusing them? None of us are,” said Board member Dr. Ewan Affleck.

Board members pointed out that the court had ruled clearly that the federal government must correct deficiencies in the IFHP and the CMA should use its advocacy efforts to speak out strongly on the issue.

In her letter, Forbes noted that the CMA has joined with other national and social stakeholders in calling for a reversal of the cuts since changes to the IFHP were first announced in April 2012.

“While we recognize that government activities are curtailed during an election period … it is our position that the current situation constitutes an urgent matter, and therefore immediate action is both warranted and necessary,” she said in her letter.

“Canadians have shown their commitment to step up and work with government to help address the current refugee crisis. We urge the government to meet this compassionate spirit by ensuring that all refugees regardless of sponsorship category receive appropriate and comprehensive health care coverage.”

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