Health care services near, but still too far

By Byron Cruz, Sanctuary Health

canadian-refugee-camp-graphIt was 2:00 am, the first week of the spring. The phone rang at home. We knew it was time to get up and go to provide support for a brave young Latin American girl who did not have access to prenatal care from the Canadian health care system.

For Ingrid it was her first experience as a doula, a non-medical person who supports a woman before, during and after childbirth. As an experienced mother, she knew what to do. “I am having contractions very frequent,” the girl said.She was scared but happy.She was just steps away from the hospital, but as one of the thousands of uninsured people who live and work in our communities, health care services were out of reach.

We sent a text to the midwife, and she answered quickly: “I am on my way.” We arrived at the apartment at the same time. Both the doula and midwife knew it was going to be a long journey but they were firmly committed.

I waited outside for a few hours, thinking about how close Saint Paul’s Hospital was but how far away it was at the same time. I walked in front of 1148 Hornby Street, the location of the Citizenship and Immigration Canada office. Here is where refugee claimants are denied access to the symbolic and limited Interim Federal Health services.

I was thinking that June 17, the national day of action against cuts to health care for refugees, was just around the corner. We knew there would be a lot of nurses, physicians, health care/community workers, social workers, students, community members, immigrants, and friends at the action, and we needed to be ready. It is time for action; it is time to send a strong message to the federal government. I wanted to shout from the deepest part of my lungs and my heart, “We demand health care for refugee claimants!” …  “Health for all!”

I went back to the building and I was invited to go in to help in my role as an independent homeopath. The midwife was right with her prescriptions. She knew that the emotions of the patient were the most important symptoms to consider.

I was prepared with my homeopathic pills. I wanted the door to this world to open for this Mexican Canadian baby; I wanted to hear the cry of new life; I wanted to believe that the child born would be accompanied in his journey by the spirits of the spring.

Mom tried so hard and baby was also doing his best.The clarity and expertise of the midwife, the emotional support of the doula and the homeopathic medicine helped avoid complications. At one point, the midwife explained to the young mother that in the case of serious risks, it was possible to go to the hospital. But it would cost over $10,000.

On June 17, the National day of action, thousands of Canadians expressed their concern and outrage at the cuts to health care for refugees. Jason Kenny, open your heart. Stephen Harper, open your heart. You are responsible for the lives of refugee claimants and undocumented pregnant women. It is time to stop these discriminatory measures. Refugees are not the problem. Refugees are the best investment for a country that was built with the tears and sweat of thousands of migrants.

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