Ontario’s 3 month wait for Healthcare: An unjust killer.

Ontario is one of 3 Provinces imposing a 3 month wait for health coverage for its landed immigrants – 80,000 per year. A lot can and does go wrong in those 3 months.

Tem was 8 years old when he came to Canada in 2008. Two weeks later he required urgent life saving medical care. He was medically uninsured, in Ontario’s 3 month wait.

Tem’s father was granted admission to Canada from the Darfur refugee camp in 2000, 1 month before Tem was born. His mission was to arrive ahead, and meet the requirements Canada set down to allow the rest of his family to join him. He worked 2 and sometimes 3 jobs for 8 years to save the funds Ontario required. Finally, in 2008, he succeeded. His 2 sons and wife landed as immigrants. Ontario imposed its 3 month wait for their healthcare.

Tem was born in Sudan with severe and lethal heart malformations. He received life saving surgery when he was 3, in the Darfur region where he resided in the refugee camp. Cardiovascular surgeons from Europe came to Sudan to do free open heart surgery. They patched Tem’s tiny heart with a temporary fix. He would need definitive corrective surgery before he was 8 or he would die. Blood was flooding backwards, damaging his lungs.

Two weeks after arriving in Canada, Tem developed a severe pneumonia. His deformed heart was failing under the added strain. He was short of breath, febrile, septic and dehydrated. His father took him to the ER. He was told he needed to pay $500 just for Tem to be assessed. There would more cost for treatments.

Not able to pay, Tem’s family brought him to the clinic. After treatment for pneumonia, and then the gracious generosity of a cardiovascular surgeon at Sick Children’s, Tem survived. His heart is now repaired. His family now live in an apartment in a southern Ontario town where his father works. Tem is a soccer player now with his school team.

The courage and resolve of Canada’s newcomers never ceases to inspire us. They defy and survive death from war and starvation in their home lands, and for Tem, what war and starvation in Darfur could not accomplish, Canada nearly did.

Ironically it was Ontario’s Provincial NDP Government, under Bob Rae, who imposed this regressive and dangerous policy. The NDP’s current leader, Andrea Horvath is in a position to reverse this social injustice that has harmed and impoverished Canada’s newcomers to Ontario. We call on her to do so. The Liberal’s to date have refused.

We and the OMA have presented the financial data to the McGuinty Government proving that providing primary healthcare for medically necessary conditions in the 3 months will save money. The current policy is more expensive, produces ill health and longer hospital stays, and impairs acculturation ( see Kaufman et al, Academic Medicine 2000).

Why is it so difficult for Ontario do the right thing by the newcomers it invites to sustain its future? What is stopping it? What information does it have to support its policy? The OMA and our organization have offered evidence the policy is ill conceived.

It is way past time for Ontario to step out of the past, and into the future of healthcare – for the good of ¬†everyone’s health.


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