TORONTO, May 30, 2012 – Ontario nurses are adding their voices to a growing list of health-care professionals who want the federal government to drop controversial changes that will limit health-care coverage for refugee claimants.
Members of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) issued an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper this week, concerned that changes to the Interim Federal Health Program will threaten the lives and well-being of people who have already experienced trauma and hardship even before they arrived in Canada.
“Refugees who come to our country have tremendous challenges to contend with. Besides overcoming oppressive and abusive systems they’ve left behind, they have to deal with language barriers, finding shelter, and providing for themselves and their loved ones. Denying them proper access to primary health-care services is unconscionable,” says Doris Grinspun, chief executive officer of RNAO, adding “this is not the Canada I know.”
The changes, which take effect at the end of June, mean current and future refugees will no longer be eligible for vision, dental or supplemental health benefits. Access to prescription drug benefits will also be severely curtailed. Most refugees would also not have access to hospital services or care provided by a nurse or physician, except in urgent situations.
RNAO says the estimated cost savings used as the rationale for the change is an example of false economy. “There aren’t many health-care professionals who agree that restricting access to primary care services is sound health or economic policy,” says Rhonda Seidman-Carlson, president of RNAO, adding “this goes against every notion of what a health system should be.”
The association has also begun a letter writing campaign urging its 33,000 members to send letters to Prime Minister Harper and Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, asking them to rescind the planned changes.
In its letter, Ontario nurses also call on Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty to take an activist role by enlisting the help of other provincial and territorial leaders to advocate against the changes.
RNAO joins other health organizations in taking a stand against the cuts, including the Canadian Nurses Association, the Canadian Health Coalition, and the Canadian Medical Association.
The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario is the professional association representing registered nurses in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses’ contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve.
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