Ontario has joined other provinces in moving to fill the damaging gap created by last year’s federal cuts to refugee healthcare. The Ontario Temporary Health Program will provide access to most hospital, primary care, specialist, lab and diagnostic services, and to medication consistent with the Ontario Drug Benefit formulary. This coverage will be available to refugees regardless of the status of their claim or the country they came from.
This is very welcome news. Front-line healthcare providers, community organizations, researchers, and Wellesley had long been calling for such a move. Our updated Health Equity Impact Assessment had demonstrated that the federal cuts have had totally predictable and very serious effects on the health of a very vulnerable population. One unfortunate detail is a three month wait time: this contradicts the goal of ensuring equitable access to healthcare and seems somewhat contradictory in that the many exceptions mean that many who need essential care will be covered anyway.
This program will make an enormous difference to lessening health barriers faced by refugees. But, of course, those barriers should never have been created in the first place. Ontario will continue to call on the federal government to reinstate its cuts and will be sending them the bill for the provincial program.