Response to Ottawa Citizen re: IFHMay 11, 2012
May 11, 2012
Re: An attack on vulnerable refugees (May 9, 2012)
Doctors serve their patients and the public best when they focus their energy and skills on treating disease based on accurate diagnoses and facts. Unfortunately, Drs. Mark Tyndall, Steve Kravcik, and some of their colleagues seem to prefer political grandstanding and irresponsible rhetoric (such as Tyndall’s reference to patients “spitting up blood in the emergency room”) over accuracy and facts.
Contrary to the overheated claims of these self-proclaimed defenders of the public health, there is no change in Interim Federal Health coverage for treatments affecting public health and public safety. Treatment, including prescription medications, will continue to be provided to all asylum claimants for infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV, and for other medications necessary to protect public health and safety, such as anti-psychotic drugs.
Nor is there any change to primary health care for the vast majority of asylum claimants, who will continue to have access to the full range of basic doctor and hospital services that all Canadians receive through their provincial health care system, including treatment for chronic disease. Perhaps most importantly, all asylum claimants are provided, free of charge, an Immigration Medical Exam, which screens all claimants for disease. This comprehensive check-up is more preventative health care than most Canadians receive on a regular basis. And, of course, if an asylum claimant is found to be a genuine refugee, he or she will then have access to the full benefits of the provincial health care system.
With respect to these cases – the vast majority of legitimate refugee cases – Dr. Tyndall and his colleagues are guilty of baseless fear-mongering.
What is changing is that bogus asylum seekers, including those whose claims have been formally rejected, will no longer receive, at taxpayer expense, enhanced health services such as eye and dental coverage that are unavailable to many ordinary Canadians.
Nor will asylum seekers from safe countries, such as the liberal democracies of the European Union or the United States, continue to receive the full range of basic and supplemental health care coverage, though they will still receive urgent or essential medical care, including hospital treatment, and any prescription drugs and treatment necessary to address a public health or safety risk, such as an infectious disease. These changes go hand-in-hand with the introduction of reforms to speed up the processing of asylum claims from safe countries, meaning that these asylum seekers will have their claims heard in a matter of weeks, rather than years, as is currently the case. The health coverage for these claimants is, therefore, only a short interim measure.
It is hardly “inconceivable and unethical,” as Tyndall claims, to stop the abuse of Canada’s generous and overburdened health care system by bogus asylum claimants. Especially by those that have already been rejected by our fair and independent refugee determination system but who refuse to return home, preferring to enjoy generous welfare and health care benefits that even honest, hard-working Canadians do not receive.
Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism