August 2nd, 2012: The clinic doors closed early

August 2nd’s uninsured refugee clinic was a repeat of the last few weeks. The number of patients with revoked and denied IFH asking for medical help, has nearly tripled.

This is unprecedented in our 12 year history of providing uninsured healthcare.

The Nurse Practitioner providing care last night, and the nurses, were overwhelmed. When the clinic doors opened at 5 pm there was a crush of waiting patients.The staff were forced to close the doors an hour early. Many patients were still in the waiting room at 8pm, still waiting to be treated. It was much later before all had been seen.

All the new patients arrive with no medical history, other than what they can tell us. We have never met them before. Some patients are on many medications and needed renewals.  We have never met them before. We worry we know too little about their health status and medical history to safely treat them and prescribe medications. We worry if we do not treat them worse health results will ensue and they will end up at the ER. Some were pregnant, some were children. Some were anxious, their anxiety made worse by the fear of non treatment. All waited patiently to be treated.

We are very confused. The new patients we are seeing have IFH – issued prior to Bill C31, with expiry dates well into the future. Why have these persons been targeted for revocation of IFH health services?  Is this Blue Cross denying services, or the rules of Bill C31, or both? We have tried to seek clarification, but are getting no answers.

Bill C31 is punishing many, turning innocent persons into victims simply because of the misfortune to be ill. It is breeding frustration and anger, amongst both patients and providers. Humiliation and invalidation are felt all around. Nothing positive or good will emerge from this inhumane injustice? It is intolerable to see.

The limited funds we have to provide healthcare are being depleted, very quickly.



What about the Children, their parents? July 31 2012

Scarborough, GTA July 31st 2012

We continue to see growing numbers of refugee claimants seeking urgent healthcare with revoked IFH.  Their doctors – family physicians and specialists, ( and of course hospitals) are now asking for payment up front before providing healthcare to their “former” patients. Tonight’s clinic lasted 7 hours, instead of the usual 4.

Suli is 6 years old. He is more than cute enough to give anyone a run for their money in the arena of public opinion. He arrived in Canada with his family from a violent, unstable part of the world where children are kidnapped for ransom, where religious persecution and violence are rampant, and extortion and the protection racket is the norm for those in the minority. His parents made the journey to Canada, seeking safety, as refugees. They await their IRB hearings. His country will likely be on Canada’s new “safe list”.

Suli had open heart surgery at 15 days of age. Until Canada Day 2012, Suli and his parents had IFH. This covered the basic paediatric cardiology visits he requires. Suli’s teachers have noticed he is falling behind at school. They have asked us for an assessment. Immunizations are needed to prevent disease and attend school. Suli’s dental condition is horrible. A tooth has abscessed. This can infect his heart. That can kill him.

Suli’s family first tried Alberta to find work. No luck. After 7 months they have returned to Toronto, looking for any type of work. Today, their family doctor who had treated Suli and the parents under (now defunct) IFH, requested payment before continuing any care.

How about Lilly? She is a refugee claimant, age 42. She was beaten and left for dead in the streets, amidst the political violence engulfing her home country, in Africa. With her abdomen open and hemorrhaging, she was operated on and lived. She lives with severe, constant abdominal pain. Lilly was new to our clinic tonight. Her doctor would no longer see her because her IFH was terminated, and Lilly cannot afford the care and physician fees.

Roya, from Afghanistan, was ill with fever and cough. She arrived in Canada in 2003. Soldiers freed her, Canada rejected her healthcare. She works as a volunteer, in west Toronto, helping other newcomers to Canada find apartments and shelter.

Jy’s IFH was revoked 3 weeks ago. His leg ulcers are now recurring because his loss of IFH – not mention the Sickle Disease –  threatens his very existence.

Nadia had an ear infection. She is 4. She cried in pain. She escaped from Iran with her parents. Jaf is 40. She escaped too. Her welcome get together in Canada ended when she broke her foot, last week. She could not afford the hospital. We are doing what we can. She is limping without a cast.

Yes, we were busier than usual for sure in the clinic for uninsured refugees.  I wonder how Suli is tonight? I wonder how we will find him the help he needs to stay alive. He is only six years old. What does he know about politics, and IFH cuts? He knows only that he needs adults to help him live. His parents know this too. They also know who cut Suli loose to fend for himself, who dashed their hopes for their son, and a new and safer life. So do I.


And so it Begins! July 17th 2012

Hi Meb, Angela and all

This evening’s Scarborough volunteer clinic for uninsured refugees and immigrants was like no other we have experienced in our 13 years of operation. Refugees with suddenly cancelled IFH cards flooded our waiting room an hour before the clinic opened at 5 pm. We were still in the process of seeing the last patients of our regular day.

The scene was more like chaos and crowd control, than the evening medical walk in clinics for the uninsured we have grown used to. It reminded me of a Code Orange.

It was all very overwhelming and tragic. For a while I lost site of the fact that we were actually providing healthcare, in Canada. Patients with diabetes, hypertension, chest pain, pregnancy, headache, pyelonephritis, fever all crowded in. Suddenly, on Canada Day 2012, their IFH cards were cancelled and revoked. They arrived from their friends house, shelters, motels, by TTC.

One young 24 year old women in Canada 4 years, 35 weeks pregnant, a primip, arrived crying, with severe abdominal pain. She had contacted her OB a week earlier seeking care with the pain. She was informed by the office that her IFH had been cancelled. She was unaware. The expiry date on her IFH document said November 22nd 2012. She was informed that to see her OB she would now have to pay $130 per visit. And then there was the delivery and hospital costs. She stayed at home with her pain, unable to pay the $130. She then came to our clinic tonight. She is sponsored by her Canadian husband.

Another patient, a 61 year old gentleman in a Scarborough refugee shelter arrived because his heart medications had run out days earlier ,and his doctor providing care under IFH was now charging for renewals and care. He could not afford to see the doctor. He had heart failure and atrial fib. He was taking warfarin, and by mistake Plavix. He had run out of all his meds – lasix, cavedilol, amiodarone, coversyl….. He was on 12 meds. He spoke no English and arrived alone, by Public Transit. He was sweating, afraid. He wore a suit for the visit. He had loosened his neck tie because he was perspiring so much but left his suit jacket on until I came in the room.

I am home now, and I still feel ashamed of what Canada is doing. We spent much of the evening apologizing for our country’s regressive, uncaring, humiliating, and harmful behaviour. What I saw tonight, I never dreamed I would see in my country. How is it that a Canadian Government can abandon a pregnant women and her 35 week pregnancy, with pain, to fend for herself? How can that mother, her pregnancy, that infant be so callously cut loose at 35 weeks? How ironic that Mr Kenney is a professed pro life advocate – just lives that serve his policies at the time, I suppose?

I am very, very, angry this evening. I am stunned. Our volunteer nursing and reception team were outstanding! We are not sure what the next clinic will bring. We may need to open another evening, but we have no idea how. Perhaps sharing moments and stories like this with our fellow providers will help? This madness must be stopped.


Happy Canada Day, 2012 – for some

Canada had a proud history of safety for many of the the World’s  Refugees and Asylum seekers.  We cared enough to provide sanctuary, safety, dignity for those displaced by war, disease, and famine. Canada is country built on immigration – the contributions of immigrants and refugees. In Canada, almost everyone is recently from somewhere else.

Our approach included fair and open minded policies respectful of human rights and the needs – including access to medically necessary healthcare – for the vulnerable arriving in our midst. It never hurt us financially. In fact, the Canadian road to prosperity is replete with the contributions to our society, of our newcomers.

This all changed as of June 30th 2012 when Canada’s Federal Conservative Government  passed Bill C31 and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney mean-spiritedly declared “I don’t like being taken for a sucker” as justification for his drastic cuts to healthcare to refugees.

Canada’s new official view from Parliament Hill, is apparently, that New Canadians from the most vulnerable of circumstances have come here, to take us for suckers.
This Web site is dedicated to recording, disseminating and preserving the experiences and stories of our Refugees. It is dedicated to ensuring that the harm of Bill C31 is available for all to see, and feel.