VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Doctors, nurses and dentists are taking to the streets across Canada on Monday, to demonstrate their anger over cuts to medical coverage for refugees and refugee claimants.

The changes affect the Interim Federal Health Program, which is the temporary health coverage given to refugees and refugee claimants until they get provincial medical insurance.

They’re all part of the Harper government’s controversial reform of the immigration and refugee system.

Under the changes, refugee claimants coming from “designated countries of origin” will no longer be able to seek medical attention, unless they pose a public risk.

Designated countries of origin are countries that the federal government determines have robust human rights records, and from which few refugee claimants have their applications accepted.

The amendments will also see refugees who are already permanent residents no longer get coverage for supplementary medical care, for things like visits to a dentist or a physiotherapist.

“For refugee claimants, some medications are no longer covered. So if you have a child with asthma, who needs their Ventolin and Flovent, their puffers, that’s no longer covered,” says Vancouver family physician Martina Scholtens.

She’s having to tell her clients they’ll have to go without their medicine, starting next month. “It’s embarrassing to break that news,” she asserts. “They need more help, not less.”

Scholtens calls the move to reduce coverage shortsighted, as she says that child suffering from asthma will now be more likely to wind up in the emergency room. But she points out that visit to the ER  will not be covered for refugee claimants coming from designated countries of origin.

The changes to the immigration and refugee system are meant to cut down on the number of claimants who have little chance of getting accepted into Canada from clogging up the system.

But Scholtens wonders how the changes will cut down on bogus refugee claims.  “I don’t think efforts to deter refugee claimants from coming from Canada should be addressed in the doctor’s office.”