Refugee health–care services limited
500,000 in Canada don’t have access to health–care coverage
Funmi felt hunted, trapped and terrified in Nigeria after marrying outside of her religion. As a refugee to Canada 11 years later, her life is risk at again.
"They burned down the house and they burned down my store and they threatened to kill me," she said. "Then I fled with my two children. That is how I got here."
The woman asked CBC News not to use her full name to protect her children.
She faced one health problem after another and contemplated suicide before finding help at Dr. Paul Caulford's volunteer clinic in Toronto. By then, she had developed a massive tumour on her back.
Many refugees suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder that can spiral out of control, Caulford said.
"They purposefully push it to the side, but it always come back,"Caulford said. "It comes out as an inability to keep on functioning. It gradually just grinds them to a halt."
Dr. Ritika Goel , a family physician who works with refugees and others who are uninsured in Toronto, says most have little or no medical help.
"I think many people in Canada don't know that there's approximately 500,000 people living in Canada that don't have access to health-care coverage," Goel said.
Goel recalled treating a woman a couple of weeks ago who arrived late in pregnancy. She ended up in hospitals for two weeks and received a bill of $30,000. She made a refugee claim and at some point got health coverage, but she is stuck with the bill and is now living in a shelter.
There is a lot of stress related to migration, as well as fleeing war, persecution or sexual violence back home, Goel said.
"We see a lot of people that are just feeling very anxious, very depressed," Goel said, "because they are in this new country where supposedly they are supposed to start a new life. But when they arrive they find out there are all these barriers for them and they don't know if they are going to be accepted."
In some cases, the health of refugees benefits from the kindness of strangers. The Canadian Centre for Refugee and Immigrant Healthcare raised $8,000 to help Funmi, who is scheduled to have her tumour removed next month.