Canada to screen refugees for mental health problems

Canadian health minister Jane Philpott emphasised most diseases are ‘quite treatable’

Kate Ng
Monday 30 November 2015 17:09
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A family of Syrian refugees are interviewed by authorities in hope of being approved for passage to Canada
A family of Syrian refugees are interviewed by authorities in hope of being approved for passage to Canada

Canada has promised not to turn away refugees with “treatable” infectious diseases such as tuberculosis.

In an interview with Canadian news channel CTV, health minister Jane Philpott said refugees nursing infectious diseases would be treated and may face delayed entry into the country, but will not be denied it.

“We would make sure they get appropriate treatment. It would not lead to a denial as a cause in itself of being able to be accepted as a refugee to Canada, but it may delay somebody’s travel,” she said.

Ms Philpott, 55, emphasised the screenings refugees would go through before and after entering the country, including an “international medical examination”. She also said most infectious diseases refugees might carry are “quite treatable”.

She also confirmed the incoming refugees would be screened for mental health problems, due to “traumatic experiences” and tragic “loss of family”.

“These people are incredibly resilient and courageous folk,” she said. “[They] have managed to endure these very difficult circumstances, and we will be impressed by their resilience, I think.”

Ms Philpott acknowledged how stretched the healthcare system in Canada is at the moment, but said she believes “we are up to the tasks and all the services will be in place”.

Dr Ashna Bowry, lead physician for St Michael’s Hospital’s Syrian refugee clinic in Toronto, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC): “With regards to tuberculosis risk, the risk is perceived to be very low. We are looking at numbers around 16 in 100,000 refugees who are in the camps at the moment.

“We anticipate dealing with immediate needs like managing injuries and trauma. But the mainstay of primary care will be based on treating neglected chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure [and other complications].”

Four million Syrian refugees

The Canadian government is expecting to receive a first wave of up to 10,000 refugees by December 31, with an additional 15,000 more in January and February, and another 10,000 later in 2016.

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