Watch above: hundreds protest cuts to refugee health care
SASKATOON – Monday marked a National Day of Action as hundreds protested cuts to refugee health care in 17 Canadian cities including Saskatoon.
In 2012, the federal government made changes to the Interim Federal Health Program which limited care to refugees, a decision doctors across the country say was the wrong one with dire consequences.
“These cuts have left many refugees without health care in their first initial arrival to Canada so there’s increased costs and we see people in the emergency department who are coming in sicker and in more dire condition which ultimately increases cost to the health care system and the taxpayer,” said Kamini Premkumar, a protest organizer and a second year emergency department physician.
Calling on the federal government to reverse it’s decision in cutting refugee health services, Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care says there are numerous, documented examples being denied care including sick children and pregnant women fleeing sexual violence.
“Right now pregnant women are not having their prenatal care being covered so this means mothers with sicker children who might end up NICU or just sicker in general with longer hospital stays,” said Premkumar
Parviz Yazdani, who has a private clinic and is the clinic director of the University of Saskatchewan’s outreach clinic, said 15 to 20 per cent of his clients are refugees.
“When you don’t have access to basic health care, when you in you’re in pain, when you’re in discomfort, you don’t speak the language and you don’t know how to get it and who to get it from, it’s an added stress that negates their every survival on a day to day basis,” said Yazdani, who moved to Canada in 1986 as a refugee,
Protestors say refugees need to be able to access primary and preventative care as well as the ability to choose which doctor or dentist they see.
“They have to come from far, they rely on other people to drive them and to give them rides and to wait for them and to translate for them and all these things. They cannot go to another dentist or doctor that speaks their language, and they don’t have these social networks to assist them,” said Yazdani.
“They don’t even know what they’re legally entitled to so it’s our job to extend these services and fight for them,” added Yazdani.
Arriving in 1973 from Ethiopia and becoming a Canadian citizen five years later, Ben Negere acknowledged a lot has changed over the years for newcomers and not always for the good.
“We really want to come to Canada for the safety so if we are excluded in some of the benefits then there is really no hope for us because they start wanting now, excluding then we don’t know what will be next,” said Negere.