Refugees

Doctors, medical students protest refugee health care cuts

Protesters want the public to know about federal cuts to refugee health care under the Conservative government and to encourage everyone to vote

Doctors, medical students and residents put a sign up in front of Pier 21 to protest federal cuts to health care for refugees   Sarah Rae

About a dozen physicians, medical students and residents put up a sign in front of Pier 21 to protest federal cuts to refugee health care funding and encourage people to vote.

The sign read “Closed until further notice — please send all complaints to the ballot box.” It was up for about five minutes before security workers told the protesters they would call the police if it were not taken down.

Alyson Holland, a pediatric emergency medicine resident at the IWK, said the federal cuts were hurting the most vulnerable.

“People who are coming here as refugee claimants do so at significant risk to themselves, leaving behind everything they know in their home countries because they fear for their lives and their well-being,” she said.

Initial cuts to the Interim Federal Health program were made in 2012. Refugee claimants lost access to vision and dental care and medication coverage, and rejected refugee claimants and those from designated “safe countries” lost access to any health care unless they posed a risk to public health.

The Federal Court ruled in 2014 that these changes were unconstitutional, as they put people’s lives at risk. While the Conservative government attempts to appeal this decision, they have temporarily reinstated some coverage for pregnant women and children.

Holland said this is not only a moral problem, but a financial one, because health problems, if left untreated, will “snowball“ and create much higher costs down the road.

The financial savings for not providing refugees with health care is minimal, she said, so she believes this is essentially a political statement.

“They’re not coming here to steal our health care, that’s just a political statement and it’s intended to be divisive,” she said.

Since the beginning of last year, 360 refugees have settled in Nova Scotia and Justice Minister Diana Whalen says the province is willing to accept more.

Alyson Holland, a pediatric emergency medicine resident at the IWK, was at the protest to spread awareness about the cuts to refugee health care and encourage people to vote
Alyson Holland, a pediatric emergency medicine resident at the IWK, was at the protest to spread awareness about the cuts to refugee health care and encourage people to vote   Sarah Rae