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A year at the frontline of cuts to refugee health

Stop cuts to refugee health

On this National Day of Action for Refugee Health, the Association of Ontario Health Centres (AOHC) appeals to the Federal Government to reinstate the refugee healthcare coverage provided by the Interim Federal Health program.

AOHC stands along with Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care, Health for All and other concerned organizations and Canadians calling on the government to stop the cuts to refugee health. The Association represents Ontario’s 75 Community Health Centres (CHCs), who are the only primary health care providers funded by the provincial government to serve uninsured people living Ontario. Refugees come for a variety of issues, including screenings, tests, immunizations, prescriptions, referrals, settlement issues, health advice and a high percentage of patients come for pregnancy related issues, pain and respiratory concerns. Frontline providers in CHC’s report that the removal of the Interim Federal Health program has had a very serious impact. Community Health Centres are seeing increasing numbers of refugees with intensified pressure to address the health care services no longer covered by the federal government. “The cuts to refugee health have had a devastating effect,” says Dr. Michael C. Stephenson, a General Practitioner with Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services.

“These are people who are in Canada legally, and are escaping persecution, torture and trauma. I have personally heard from many refugees who were denied health care in emergency situations. This is unacceptable and fundamentally un-Canadian.” The lack of coverage adds to the other challenges refugees face, such as lack of adequate housing, economic insecurity and the psychological problems caused by displacement from their home country. “The unique circumstance of the refugee experience creates special health care considerations,” says Adrianna Tetley, Executive Director, AOHC. “Denying health coverage could lead to potentially dangerous health outcomes, increased long term costs, and also contradicts the commitment to humanitarianism understood by welcoming refugees in the first place. The changes are irresponsible. Cuts to life-sustaining medication and treatment can never be justified.” AOHC calls on the federal government to stop the cuts to refugee health coverage. Preventative healthcare is both more humane and more economical than remedial healthcare. Until the federal government reinstates the program, AOHC urges the provincial government to fill gap and ensure funding for refugee health services.

Refugee Case Studies: Who have we been seeing

A man with known coronary artery disease who needed an urgent angiogram but couldn’t afford to pay for the procedure.

A pregnant woman who was denied care at a Toronto based hospital. They wanted her to put down a deposit of $1700 before they would see her. She couldn't afford it. The IFH would have covered her visits.

A 5 year old child who was denied care at a walk-in clinic when she had a prolonged high fever. The parents were told to pay. IFH would have covered her visit.

A man who was shot in his country of origin days before he left. He couldn't get follow up care by a specialist for 6 weeks after arrival because Canadian Immigration Canada wouldn't issue him Interim Federal Health coverage.


The Association of Ontario Health Centres aims for the best possible health and well-being for everyone living in Ontario. AOHC looks towards a future without systemic barriers that prevent people from reaching their full health potential, where everyone can make the choices that allow them to live a fulfilling life. A future in which individuals, families and communities are served by, and are able to actively participate in, trusted healthcare systems that respond to people's and communities' needs in coordinated and comprehensive ways.

Sunday, June 30, 2013