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National Day of Action for Refugee Healthcare

Monday, June 18, 2012

Health care and social service professionals across Canada are taking to the streets in protest of the Conservative government’s cuts to refugee health care.

At noon today, they will stand together to urge the government to reverse the planned cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program, which provides health care coverage to refugees and refugee claimants who aren’t covered by provincial health plans. Participants in Ottawa will assemble on Parliament Hill at noon for the protest, and to hear health care and social service providers themselves speak out.

 “As health care professionals, we urge the government to reinstate the current Interim Federal Health Program,“ said Dr. Doug Gruner, a family physician at the Bruyere Medical Centre. “Cutting preventative and primary health care for refugees is terrible health, humanitarian and economic policy. It threatens the lives of people who have already experienced significant hardship before they arrived in Canada and is simply wrong.”

As of June 30, 2012 some refugees and refugee claimants will no longer have access to important health care services. For example, many refugees will no longer qualify for coverage for necessary medications for diabetes or heart conditions. They will also be denied access a doctor or nurse unless their condition is deemed a threat to public health or safety. Women will no longer have access to family planning support, the youngest refugees will be denied well-child care, and those arriving from war-torn countries will no longer have access to mental health care.

“The unified response by health professionals across the country reflects widespread concern over how these cuts will affect our patients,” said Dr. Megan Williams, a physician at Ottawa’s Somerset West Community Health Centre. “There is no doubt that these cuts will lead to worse health outcomes for vulnerable people, and higher costs for everyone. If a refugee who has diabetes is denied something as simple as insulin, they could suffer from serious complications such as infection, heart attack, stroke and kidney failure.”

These cuts will ultimately affect the public health and safety of all Canadians. The provision of primary care is critical to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases, and cutting off access to these services puts everyone at risk. Restricting care to those who are already sick is a reckless and unproven approach to managing infectious diseases.

“With the right supports and resources, refugees can settle into a productive and rewarding new life in Canada,” said Dr. Mark Tyndall, Head of Infectious Diseases at the Ottawa Hospital and Professor of Medicine. ”Unfortunately, the economic and health disparities experienced by many new refugees, some of whom will have just escaped war, violence or famine, will be made much worse by these cuts. This is unjust and goes against our values as medical professionals, and as Canadians.”

The National Day of Action protests have been organized by health professionals themselves and are supported by health care and social service associations from all over the country.  Providers and concerned citizens want to send a clear signal to our government against the planned cuts, and urge them to reverse this decision.

For more information:


Dr. Doug Gruner
613-795-9904 (cell)

Dr. Megan Williams


Dr. Mark Tyndall


Supporting organizations include:

Canadian Medical Association * Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada * Canadian Nurses Association * Canadian Association of Optometrists * College of Family Physicians of Canada * Canadian Dental Association * Canadian Association of Social Workers * Canadian Pharmacists Association* Canadian Doctors for Medicare * Canadian Association of Community Health Centres *Registered Nurses Association of Ontario * Canadian Health Coalition