Registed Nurses' Association of Ontario


Nurses speak out against ongoing cuts to health coverage for refugees


TORONTO, June 14, 2014 – The rights of refugees to access health care will be the subject of a series of rallies taking place across the province on Monday.

For decades, refugees in Canada have enjoyed health-care coverage. That right was stripped away two years ago when the federal government enacted changes to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFPH), ending coverage for vision, dental and supplemental health benefits. Access to prescription drug benefits was also halted, as access to most hospital services - except in urgent cases.

On Monday, June 16, registered nurses and nurse practitioners will join physicians and other health-care providers in condemning Ottawa’s decision.

The federal government argues its decision was a cost-savings measure. However, a study released this spring by Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children shows the opposite. Costs have actually gone up since the changes were implemented on June 30, 2012. Before the cuts were made, 6.4 per cent of refugee children appearing in the hospital’s emergency department had to be admitted. After changes to the IFHP were implemented, the admission rate for refugee children doubled to 12 per cent. RNAO says the rise in admission rates, which led to ballooning health costs, is a direct result of refugee families forced to resort to ER departments because they didn’t have access to primary care when they needed it.

“Health-care professionals critical of this decision at the time predicted this would happen,” says Vanessa Burkoski, president of RNAO, adding “now we are seeing the results of the federal government’s faulty logic. Prime Minister Harper said the changes would save money, but the reverse is true, and, worse, those costs have been downloaded onto the provinces and on the backs of refugee families.”

RNAO’s Chief Executive Officer Doris Grinspun says the federal government’s decision is shameful. Refugees who come to Canada to escape their home country have incredible challenges to overcome, such as finding a place to live, finding employment and adjusting to life in a new country. Denying refugees access to health care is simply wrong and violates a basic human right.”

Nurses will be speaking at events across Ontario as part of a National Day of Action organized by Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care.

  • RN Andrea Baumann will speak at Kitchener’s City Hall (200 King St. W., Kitchener) at 12 p.m. (noon)
  • NS Yessica Blasham will speak at Springer Market Square (behind Kingston’s Town Hall) at 12 p.m. (noon)
  • RN Morgan Hoffarth will speak at London’s Victoria Park at 12 p.m. (noon)
  • RN Leanne Siracusa will speak at Hamilton’s Citizenship and Immigration office (55 Bay St. N.) at 1 p.m.
  • RN Maria Tandoc will speak at Mississauga City Hall (300 City Centre Drive) at 12 p.m. (noon)
  • NP Vanessa Wright will speak at Toronto’s Citizenship and Immigration office (25 St. Clair Ave. E.) at 12 p.m. (noon)

RNAO says its members will bring a unified message to the rallies, and will call on Ottawa to do the right thing by immediately reversing its decision.

The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) 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.

For more information about RNAO, please visit our website at


To arrange an interview with a nurse, please contact:

Marion Zych, Director of Communications, RNAO
Cell: 647-406-5605 / Phone: 416-408-5605
Toll free: 1-800-268-7199 ext. 209