Saskatchewan

Official opposition says Sask. government did nothing to help mother secure healthcare coverage for infant

The official opposition' says the Saskatchewan government did nothing to help a citizen of India obtain a health card for her baby, who is a Canadian citizen.

Mother of Regina-born baby was billed for his COVID-19 hospital stay.

Ms. Pereira, who asked that her first name not be reported, contacted Conway in February after she had attempted twice to obtain a health card for her son. She was unsuccessful. (David Bruce )

The official opposition says the Saskatchewan government did nothing to help a citizen of India obtain a health card for her baby, who is a Canadian citizen.

NDP Social Services Critic Meara Conway had a fiery exchange on the matter with Health Minister Paul Merriman on Thursday. 

Ms. Pereira, who asked that her first name not be reported, contacted Conway in February after she had attempted twice to obtain a health card for her son. She was unsuccessful.

On Thursday, Merriman said that was the first time he had heard about the situation. Conway shot back, saying she wrote to the Merriman on February 9 to make sure a health card would be issued to the infant boy, who was born in Regina in August 2020. 

Pereira came to Canada from India in 2018 on a student visa. Her son is a Canadian citizen according to the Citizenship Act, which defines any child born in Canada as a citizen. According the act, all Canadian citizens are entitled to healthcare coverage.

Merriman responded with a letter denying the boy Saskatchewan health coverage based on the immigration status of his mother on February 23.

Conway says Pereira's situation became more dire when both her and her son contracted COVID-19. The baby began exhibiting breathing problems and needed a trip to the emergency room. 

Pereira was charged for that hospital visit.  

"Imagine the stress of this mother ... so I called the minister's office ... explaining the situation and in his response ... he doubled down on this ministry's heartless policy," Conway said during question period.  

"Curiously, he referenced the health coverage policy for out-of-country visitors. My constituent's son, as is plainly indicated in the letter, is not a visitor. He was born in Saskatchewan. He is a Canadian citizen. He was born at the Regina General, just like my son. Why would the minister of health refuse anyone, never mind an innocent citizen of our country, access to health care in a pandemic?"

Social Services Critic an NDP MLA for Regina Elphinstone-Centre Meara Conway says Pereira's situation became serious when both her and her son contracted COVID-19. The baby began exhibiting breathing problems and needed a trip to the emergency room.  (CBC News)

Merriman said everyone has access the public healthcare. But he did not speak on the bill Pereira received for her son's hospital stay. 

"I assure the House that nobody has been denied access to our public health care system," said Merriman.

"In this specific case I will look deeper into this and make sure that we get this situation rectified."

Meanwhile, Pereira said in an NDP press release that her family is suffering. 

"It's not about me. This is about my baby. He is a Canadian citizen. He holds a Canadian passport and isn't eligible for health coverage. It's very cruel," said Pereira.

"I am in a very difficult position, waiting to see if I am eligible for a student visa. I have a letter of offer from the University of Saskatchewan, and I have worked in the healthcare field. I am ready to work and contribute. Even though I am in this difficult position, I am speaking out because I don't want another family to have to go through this. This is wrong and it has been very, very difficult."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laura is a reporter and associate producer for CBC Saskatchewan. She is also the community reporter for CBC's virtual road trip series Land of Living Stories. Laura previously worked for CBC Vancouver. Some of her former work has appeared in The Globe and Mail, NYLON Magazine, VICE Canada and The Tyee. Follow Laura on Twitter: @MeLaura. Send her news tips at laura.sciarpelletti@cbc.ca

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