Powered by volunteers, clinic offers free healthcare to migrants
Published Sunday, June 25, 2017 3:48PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, June 27, 2017 12:29PM EDT
Though vaunted for covering everyone, Canada’s health care system isn’t always universal. A new Montreal clinic run by non-governmental organization Medecins du Monde is aimed at helping those who have fallen through the cracks.
The clinic primarily serves migrants who don’t qualify for coverage under the Medicare system.
“Some of them came as refugee claimants or as students,” said Medecins du Monde director Nadja Pollaert. “Now, they try to stay in Canada. They submit, for example, humanitarian grounds applications for permanent residents and while they are waiting, this could be two-to-four years, they don’t have access to health care.”
Over 100 doctors have signed up to volunteer at the Cremazie St. clinic, which opened in mid-June and 340 other people have offered up their time as well. Among those doctors is Marilyn Despots, who said she believes it’s her duty to give care to those who need it.
“As a doctor, we just want to help,” she said. “For us, everybody is equal and it’s the same health issues.”
Among the patients are many pregnant women and parents with newborn children. Many of the babies are not eligible for coverage, despite being Canadian citizens.
“If the parents don’t have access, the child doesn’t have access, which is completely absurd because the child is a Canadian citizen,” said Pollaert.
While Pollaert said she’s encouraged by some changes in policy, such as vaccinations being made available to all children, regardless of the status of their parents, doctors at the clinic still find themselves frustrated by the limitations on how they can offer care to those who need it.
“It’s really difficult for us when we can’t do all the things we usually do in our job, in our hospital for other people,” said Despots. “It’s really difficult for us when we’re just blocked in our tests and in the treatment we can give.”