Astra Desembrana, a live-in caregiver from the Philippines, neglected getting care for her high blood pressure because she had no health coverage while working two part-time jobs as she waited for her permanent residency application to be processed.
They are far from alone.
According to a coalition of health professionals, community workers and immigrant advocates, the two migrants are among 250,000 Ontario residents without access to health care due to their immigration status.
They include new immigrants who face a three-month waiting period before their OHIP kicks in, temporary foreign workers between contracts, some international students, non-status individuals with various immigration applications in the works, and returning Canadian citizens who spent a period of time abroad, said Dr. Ritika Goel of the campaign, OHIP for All.
“Why do we wait until things get worse for these patients? It is bad for the migrants. It is bad for the health-care system,” said Goel, whose group represents more than 400 groups and individuals, including all 74 community health centres in the province.
“This is about what type of society we want to live in and what we think is right.”
This week, the coalition held rallies in Toronto, Mississauga, Hamilton, London, Kitchener, Ottawa and Peterborough calling on Queen’s Park to extend the Ontario Health Insurance Plan to cover all residents regardless of their immigration status.
“We need to strive and live the principle that access to health care for all Ontario residents when you are sick should be a right and should not be mediated by immigration status.”
Robertson said the sector struggles on a daily basis to plead with specialists, hospitals and other health services to give compassionate consideration to clients who are uninsured and cannot afford to pay out-of-pocket for their care.
“This means the decision to provide care becomes arbitrary. We need a system-wide solution that enables basic coverage,” said Robertson.
Yousif, 54, arrived in Toronto in 2011 to join his mother, five brothers and two sisters, whom he had lost touch with during the civil war in his native South Sudan. He lost his health coverage after his asylum claim was denied in 2013.
Yousif remained in Canada working as a security guard while awaiting his removal — and an application to stay on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. Although the federal government has recently restored coverage for failed refugees, Yousif has recently been diagnosed with leukemia and must undergo a patchwork of services to get care.
“We clean his wounds, change the dressings and give him antibiotics for the ulcer on his leg and toe, but we don’t know what else we can do with his cancer,” said Dr. Paul Caulford of the Canadian Centre for Refugee and Immigrant Health Care, one of a handful of voluntary clinics established to fill the gaps in Toronto.
Desembrana, 43, came to Toronto in 2008 as a nanny and has been waiting to be granted permanent residence since 2012, when she met the employment requirement for immigration.
A physiotherapist in Manila, Desembrana was denied OHIP in 2014 when she renewed her open work permit because she was doing two part-time jobs caring for the elderly.
“I got more hours doing two part-time jobs than a full-time position. When I got sick, I told my friends my symptoms. They went to see their doctors and got me medications,” she said.
“I’ve been paying taxes since I came to Canada to look after other Canadians. It is just unfair that I don’t get the care myself.”
Read original article here: https://www.thestar.com/news/immigration/2016/06/30/coalition-pushes-for-ohip-for-all.html