Doctors protest refugee health cuts

Doctors from community health centres across Ottawa protested changes to refugee health coverage they say would lead to greater costs in the future.
Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has announced the government is scaling back on the health coverage it offers to refugee claimants. (The Canadian Press)

Doctors from community health centres across Ottawa protested changes to health coverage for refugees they say will lead to greater costs in the future.

The federal government recently announced changes to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) that will cut funding to supplemental health services such as medications, dentistry, vision care and mobility devices.

Coverage for other basic medical services such as hospital, doctor or nursing care will also be cut unless the need is "of an urgent or essential nature".

Medications and vaccinations would also only be provided when the disease poses a risk to public health or public safety.

Local doctors rallied on Parliament Hill against the cuts, which they say would be more costly for the health care system.

'We are saving the system ... lots of money'

Bruyere Medical Centre family physician Dr. Doug Gruner, who works with a program that helps introduce refugees to the medical system, said much of the care provided to refugees is preventative.

"We are saving the system lots and lots of money," said Gruner.

"We provide vaccinations. Under minister's Kenney's plan ... vaccinations would not be covered unless they're a public health threat," he said.

Gruner, like other doctors CBC has spoken with, said refugees would still seek medical aid after the cuts but not be able to pay for it, leaving the provinces to ultimately pay the cost.

Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews would not comment on the proposed changes, but she did say the Ontario government was looking into it.