Where do the uninsured go for care and where do they get their medications from? Are physicians from other countries who are not licensed to practice in Canada providing medical care to uninsured new arrivals, including refugee claimants and others?
We ask these questions after observing uninsured Canadian newcomers at our clinic be unable to afford healthcare in many situations that are life threatening. They are questions that became more concerning after a recent patient with cancer an uninsured newcomer to Canada died. He was refused treatment unless he could pay $ 68,000 for surgery and then chemotherapy. He could not. The patient died without treatment.
Does it happen that others seek care underground? If it happens how pervasive is it? We don’t know; but we hear the rumours. We hear of “basement clinics”. We hear stories of medications being imported from outside Canada, purchased for much less cost from developing countries, and administered for many illnesses, including cancer.
When you are medically uninsured in Canada Chemotherapy can be $50, 000 to $300,000 for a common cancer. It can be 3 times that for some cancers. Who can come up with that kind of money? When you face death, you face desperation.
We know of patients importing medications – including chemotherapy – from developing world nations where they are available and much less expensive.
If I were uninsured in Canada, and unable to find and afford medical care for a dangerous life threatening cancer, I wonder what I would do? I think I know the answer.
Why do we put our newcomers at risk like this, force them into this position?
If this is true it is deeply disturbing. Perhaps others can add information?
This week I was informed by immigration lawyers and others that Canada Border Service Agents routinely contact Ontario Works. They call and inquire as to which refugees who have failed an Immigration and Refugee Board hearing are still receiving Ontario Works benefits. They then attempt to have these benefits ended.
Is this true? If it is true is it legal? Does it contravene privacy and other legal statutes?
If anyone cane can shed any light on this matter please write us.
Here are 2 links. One is a link to a bold and unequivocal statement in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ). This is a searing condemnation of Canadian Government actions harming the health of Canada’s refugee claimants, and the governments insistence on marginalizing professional healthcare voices.
The second link is the reply from Chris Alexander, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.
This comment is ours:
Mr Alexander has stated again, and he is not alone, that Canada has one of the most generous approaches to refugees in the world. In his response in the CMAJ Mr Alexander writes “ Canada is second to none in its generosity and fairness towards newcomers, as demonstrated by our world-leading refugee resettlement system”.
The Minister has either been kept poorly informed by his staff, or he chooses to ignore the research of the United Nations and others. Data from 2010, reported by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees debunks Mr Alexanders oft repeated myth. Canada ranked 6th, behind Turkey and Portugal for acceptant rates for refugees. According to the OECD Canada ranked 13th, behind Luxembourg for intake of refugees per 100,000 population, and 16th in the world behind bankrupt Greece in % of total refugee inflow per country. In 2014 The United Nations reported that refugee claims to Canada dropped by over 50% in the past year.
This is due to Canada’s hardened immigration policies. Immigration policy is a Federal responsibility in Canada. But generosity and medical care, when urgently ill, are not.
She came to Canada on a work permit, legally issued. She worked as a domestic. After several years the job dried up.
She tried to find new work. She could not. She lost her healthcare in Ontario. She met her current partner in Canada. They became pregnant.
In her home country, she had two C sections. She needed a C- section again. A vaginal delivery this time would endanger her life.
The community Hospital in Toronto refused to book her C-section. She did not have the money to pre-pay up front for the Operating Room. The hospital refused a payment plan. This was not an elective C section. It was a medically necessary one to be done before she entered labour. If she went into labour her life would be at risk from a uterine rupture during a vaginal birth.
Despite this known risk to her life, she was denied the C section by the hospital. She went into labour. She came in through the ER. She was rushed to OR where she underwent an emergency C section.
Is this possible in Canada? Can hospitals refuse life saving medical care? Would the refusal to provide such medically necessary care because of inability pay in full, up front, be considered an assault, or extortion?