A Ukrainian refugee in Metro Vancouver is speaking up after paying about $400 for a mandatory medical exam linked to her move to Canada.
Christina Sivolap of Kyiv came to B.C. three weeks ago, and when she received her Canadian work permit, said she was told by an officer she needed to take the health test within 90 days.
“I even didn’t ask him because I thought it’s obvious that it’s for free because I’m a refugee,” she told Global News. “This is quite a lot of money for refugees who came here without a job.”
Sivolap booked a test online for about $400 and paid for it with financial donations friends and neighbours gave her to spend on clothes, shoes, food and other essentials for her family.
“I’m grateful that a lot of Canadians help us here because without them I don’t know how we will live here,” she said.
“I hope that in future, government can somehow change it because in future, a lot of Ukrainians will come here and not everyone will have those donations like I do.”
Patricia Kelly, Sivolap’s sponsor in North Vancouver, said she “hit the roof” when she found out about the test apparently being billed to Ukrainian refugees.
“She couldn’t eat or buy shoes. She’s got us helping her, so we’re not going to let that happen,” said Kelly.
“There’s going to be tens of thousands of other Ukrainians who aren’t going to have the support system. I can’t understand how they’re going to pay for that and feed their family.”
Ukraine is on the federal government’s list of countries whose citizens must get a medical exam if applying for Canadian residence for more than six months. The test may also be required if the newcomer has applied for an open work permit, said Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
“The test serves to both identify potential health conditions that could pose a risk to public health and to facilitate newcomers’ integration into Canada’s health-care system for those who may require urgent care,” wrote spokesperson Nancy Caron on Monday.
Ukrainian temporary residents, who have been granted expedited entry through the Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel (CUAET) program, are not eligible for healthcare coverage under the Interim Federal Health Program, Caron added.
“However, insured health services through provinces/territories may be available to individuals with an open work permit and their families, subject to certain conditions.”
The B.C. government’s website instructs Ukrainian refugees to get a medical exam within 90 days of arrival in Canada.
On Monday, the province announced immediate, date-of-arrival Medical Services Plan (MSP) coverage for Ukrainians in B.C. with CUAET visas. Under the CUAET, Ukrainians can apply for an open work permit or a three-year temporary resident visa.
“The Ukrainians arriving in B.C. are beginning a new chapter of their lives as they settle in Canada and will need proper health supports,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix in a statement.
“By giving individuals arriving in B.C. from Ukraine day-of-arrival MSP coverage, we’re doing what we can for one of the most important aspects of their journey: health and safety.”
The provincial government’s coverage does not include the medical exams.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated at 11:33 a.m. on April 26 to clarify that the provincial MSP announcement does not cover mandatory medical exams for Ukrainian newcomers.