Doctors say they will keep records of refugees who suffer serious untreated ailments or die as a result of health-care cuts planned by the federal government – and they will hound Conservative politicians with their findings.
Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care, a coalition of concerned health-care providers, said on Wednesday that it has has asked physicians and coroners across Canada to report any negative outcomes arising from the changes to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) that have been announced by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.
Those stories will be relayed to the public, the media, and Conservative politicians, Philip Berger, chief of family and community medicine at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, told a news conference.
"We will engage Conservative Members of Parliament wherever we can find them – at public events, at press announcements, and in their offices," he said. "
The federal government currently pays for prescription drugs, but that assistance will end on the day before Canada Day.
Under the Interim Federal Health Program, Ottawa covers a range of health-care services for refugees who do not qualify for provincial health insurance.
Under the changes planned by Mr. Kenney, which will save the government about $20-million annually, refugees who are invited to come to Canada and those who arrive here from a country that is deemed to be unsafe will receive only basic medical care.
They will lose all the supplementary benefits, including prescription drug coverage unless the medication is for a disease that poses a "risk to public health."
Those who come from a country that the government has declared to be safe, and those whose claims have been rejected but are still living in Canada, will be denied all treatment under the program unless they have a disease that poses a risk to public health or safety.
Mr. Kenney argues that the existing rules mean refugees are entitled to health benefits that are superior to those ordinary Canadians get from governments.
But the doctors say the benefits refugees currently receive are no different to those offered to hundreds of thousands of Canadians who are on welfare and other types of government assistance. Many refugees arrive poorer than the poorest Canadians, said Dr. Berger and "their health is often much worse because it has often been neglected for many years and they may have been through trauma and physical violence."