Uninsured Scarborough Clinic – November 2013
Luma is a 4 year old little girl. She was born in Canada. Her mother immigrated here years back, and is a naturalized Canadian citizen.
Luma has a developmental delay. She is a sweet, active little girl. She loves teasing and interacting, but is non verbal.
Luma was brought in to clinic by her School Principle. She was aware of the free clinic. The Principle was also desperate to help Luma and her mother receive the urgent medical care Luma needed. Luma and her mother had just returned from a war torn country in the Middle East. Her face had become swollen, covered with infection. It had progressed into an intolerable urgent problem.
Her mother had taken her daughter to the ER. She was shocked when she was told both she and her daughter’s OHIP cards were now invalid. She did not have the money requested up front for medical care. She left. Several days later she tried a walk-in clinic. She paid the $75 and was seen for 5 minutes and given a prescription for an antibiotic. Despite this, Luma’s infection worsened.
When we first saw Luma over half her face was infected. Her one eye was swollen almost shut. It had entered her nostrils. Pus flowed out. She was febrile and uncomfortable.
Why did 2 Canadian’s, one a 4 year old mentally delayed child, have invalid OHIP? Why did OHIP reject pleas from the mother, the principle and our clinic to re-instate coverage on medically necessary humanitarian grounds?
All Canadian citizens who leave Canada for more than 212 days are made to wait 3 months upon return for their OHIP to become active. Any payment for illness in this time period is their responsibility.
But Luma and her mom had left Canada for only 3 weeks to visit family overseas. On their journey home they stopped over in another country so Luma could meet, for the first time, her aging and ill grandmother. They planned a short visit.
But the war escalated. Airports closed and flights out stopped – particularly for those with foreign passports. They make better hostages, with more leverage.
When Luma’s mother went to the airport, she was told by armed forces they were not leaving. She went 3 times. On her 4th effort she was told if she returned she and her daughter would be shot dead.
When they finally managed to get out, over 212 days had passed.
When mom, the principle and our clinic each contacted OHIP, we explained that Luma was out of Canada due to a hostage situation, and not by choice. At first we thought her facial infection was the result of chemical warfare exposure. She was malnourished, as are most children in war zones.
OHIP was unwilling to make any exceptions. Finally, after contacting the Ministry of Health offices, we reached someone “prepared to look into it”. I checked a month after our contact and Luma’s OHIP had yet to be re-instated. All treatment was completed by then and all of it was provided by and covered by volunteer providers on a humanitarian basis.
All’s well that ends well? We hear this all the time. It is an unacceptable response. Lack of health insurance for new Canadians, and Canadian citizens is an unacceptable game of Russian Roulette. How many can volunteers treat, and how far can their care extend when a hospital stay is $2000 per day, and an MRI is $1400?
Luma’s 3 month nightmare is not isolated. Yet it is easily avoidable with less primitive policy. Our next entries will tell you of others.