June 17, 2013 3:59 pm

Health care workers rally in support of refugee health coverage

Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care raise a banner.

Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star via Getty Images
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CALGARY- Health care workers in Calgary rallied in solidarity with their Canadian counterparts on Monday, opposing cuts to refugee health services.

Last year, the federal government overhauled the health care coverage it provides to refugees and refugee claimants as part of a cost-cutting measure it also said was designed to make Canada less vulnerable to fake asylum claims by curbing access to free health care.

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But the changes have thrown the health care support system for refugees into chaos, creating uncertainty for health care providers and refugees alike, advocates said.

Doctors want the government to reverse their decision, and are calling on the province to support them by extending health care coverage to all Albertans.

“I’m concerned about people leaving emergency rooms critically ill,” says Dr. Annalee Coakley from the Calgary Refugee Health Program. “It’s only a matter of time before someone dies, and I don’t want that to be the precipitous of action.

“I want us to act now to prevent that death.”

Physicians say that treating patients before they require emergency care is much less expensive than denying them care because they don’t have coverage.

With files from Jill Croteau and The Canadian Press

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