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Doctors rally for federal health coverage for refugees and claimants

Hundreds of doctors from across the country rallied outside Parliament Hill Monday afternoon, calling on the government to reverse cuts made to a federal program that has funded health care for refugees and claimants since the 1950's.

Doctors fear the federal cuts will cause long-term health problems for refugees and create exponential costs at the provincial level.

That's because without coverage for clinic and family doctor visits or medications people are waiting until they're really sick and are forced to go to the emergency room, something the provinces do pay for.

But CHEO Dr. Tobey Audcent says it's ending up costing taxpayers far more because emergency visits cost more than 10 times those to family doctors and clinics.

"I don't think you'll find a doctor in Canada who will turn away a child (who cannot breathe) from the door of the emergency department without giving them oxygen. We just need to have an intelligent conversation about who is going to pay for that oxygen afterwards because the family doesn't have the money, they're a refugee family," said Audcent.

Canada is a signatory of the United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child which includes provisions for providing the highest available level of health care to all children within a nation's borders regardless of their status.

Ontario and Quebec have picked up the coverage of preventative care for refugees and claimants to save money in the long-run because those kinds of visits cost about $40 while ER visits cost upwards of $400 and hospital stays can cost $1,000s per day.

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