Manitoba

Manitoba to cover costs of medical tests for Ukrainians fleeing war

The Manitoba government has quietly agreed to cover the costs of medical exams for Ukrainian newcomers which are needed for them to update their work permits and get jobs in healthcare, childcare and agriculture.

Test results required before newcomers can work in child care, health care or agriculture

The first federally chartered flight of Ukrainians arrived in Winnipeg on May 23 from Poland. One of the roadblocks they face is getting the medical exam needed to update their work permits. Until then, they are not allowed to work in health care, child care or agriculture. (Karen Pauls/CBC)

The Manitoba government has quietly agreed to cover the costs of medical exams for Ukrainian newcomers which are needed for them to update their work permits and get jobs in health care, child care and agriculture.

"In the absence of a federal funding commitment, the province is covering the cost. We are also working through a solution to cover those who have already paid," a provincial spokesperson told CBC News in an email after several weeks of queries. 

"Those services are provided through their provincial health coverage and the [Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada]-approved physicians."

Normally, people applying for open work permits, or living in countries with a higher incidence of serious communicable diseases, like tuberculosis, for six months in the year before their arrival, need to submit the results of a medical diagnostic test overseas before they can come to Canada.

Under Ottawa's expedited visa process, the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET), Canada's immigration department is waiving that requirement.

Instead, Ukranians have 90 days after their arrival to get the medical exam.

After it is complete, the doctor or health professional submits the results to Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). The person can then apply to change the conditions on their work permit.

However, it can cost up to $350 per adult, and slightly less per child, adding up to a big bill for larger families.

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress has been calling on the provincial and federal governments to cover the cost, said Nick Krawetz, a UCC volunteer in Manitoba.

"These costs are a significant financial burden for those fleeing war, and thus this measure will help tremendously," he said.

"It also further demonstrates Manitoba is leading the country in welcoming and supporting Ukrainians."

The next step, Krawetz said, is having the medical exam costs reimbursed for those who have already paid for it.

Nick Krawetz, of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress in Winnipeg, says the next step is for Manitoba to cover retroactively all the medical test expenses of newcomer Ukrainians to the province. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Manitoba's decision is also being applauded by a community group in western Manitoba, which has raised more than $150,000 and found jobs for families wanting to move to the region.

"The announcement will save our fund between $15,000 to $20,000," said Rodney Juba, a member of the Parkland Ukrainian Family Fund and support team in Dauphin, Man., a city about 250 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.

So far, five families have arrived and three more are expected this coming week.

In Manitoba, there are only 20 approved physicians accredited by IRCC and the majority are in Winnipeg.

With more than 300 newcomers to Manitoba who arrived on a federally chartered flight on May 23, advocates say that will mean delays for appointments and long travel times for people living outside larger centres.

"If we can help our medical doctors get the certification required so we do not have to travel to Winnipeg or Brandon, this will save even more money and time," Juba said.

"This service will not only benefit Ukrainian families but all newcomers to our area."

The provincial government of Newfoundland and Labrador was the first jurisdiction in Canada to charter a humanitarian airlift, bringing 166 Ukrainians to St. John's on May 9.

A spokesperson confirmed the province is paying for the medical exams of all Ukrainians arriving there.

"This was deemed necessary because, with a lack of federally appointed panel physicians in the province, once Ukrainian refugees dispersed throughout the province, it would be difficult and vastly more expensive for them to return to the provincial capital to get this necessary medical examination, within the federally mandated timeframes," said Gerry Byrne, minister of immigration, population growth and skills.

Currently, there are only four physicians accredited by the IRCC to do the exams — three in St. John's and one in Corner Brook. 

Byrne would like Ottawa to appoint at least three more panel physicians in rural areas, to make it easier for newcomers to get their exams done.

Quebec and Nova Scotia, which are welcoming hundreds of Ukrainians this week, so far have not agreed to cover the costs.

A second federally chartered flight landed in Montreal Sunday and a third is scheduled to arrive in Halifax on June 2.

A spokesperson from Santé Québec referred all queries about the cost of the program to IRCC. 

A Nova Scotia Health spokesperson wrote the province "has not yet had a significant number of people arriving from Ukraine" and they are working to plan for increased arrivals.

Currently, the IRCC website is showing a 143-day processing time to update work permits, however a spokesperson for the federal minister says if newcomers include the key words "Ukraine 2022" on their applications, they will be prioritized.

"The processing of work permits for Ukrainian nationals is currently 14 days, for standard non-complex cases," said Aidan Strickland, press secretary for IRCC Minister Sean Fraser.

Corrections

  • We initially reported that Manitoba is the first province to pay for the medical exams for Ukrainian refugees. In fact, Newfoundland and Labrador, which chartered its own humanitarian airlift, was the first to offer free medical exams for all Ukrainian arrivals.
    May 31, 2022 11:51 AM CT

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Pauls

National reporter

Karen Pauls covers Manitoba stories for CBC national news. She has worked across Canada, U.S. and Europe, and in CBC bureaus in Washington, London and Berlin. Some of her awards include the New York Festivals for coverage of the Greyhound bus beheading and a Quirks & Quarks question show, and from the Radio Television Digital News Association for stories about asylum seekers, the Michif language, the Humboldt Broncos bus tragedy, live elections and royal wedding shows. In 2007, Karen received the Canadian Association of Journalist’s Dateline Hong Kong Fellowship and did a radio documentary on the 10th anniversary of the deadly avian flu outbreak. Story tips at karen.pauls@cbc.ca.

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