At 2:00 pm the Scarborough Community Clinic on Markham road manages a steady flow of patients. But when the Volunteer Clinic opens on Tuesdays at 5:00 pm, it becomes flooded with refugee patients.

Scarborough volunteer clinics overwhelmed by refugees

Clinics in Scarborough that treat refugees are seeing a drastic and overwhelming increase in numbers of refugee patients.

The Scarborough Community Volunteer Clinic and the Muslim Welfare Centre are two of those clinics. According the Shafiq Qureshi, the senior administrator for the Muslim Welfare Centre, they are witnessing double, sometimes triple the normal numbers of refugee patients.

Paul Caulford is one of the attending doctors at the Scarborough Clinic and he says that many of these refugees are getting turned away from regular clinics because their I.S.H. (Implementation Specialists for Healthcare) papers have become invalid.

“Because of the recent cuts, our volume has increased over 100 per cent,” Quresh said.” We always have at least one attending doctor on at a time, so we’re just able to manage.”

However Caulford feels differently on the matter.

“There are not enough doctors,” Caulford said. “It’s a lot of patients in a short time period. It’s very crowded, confusing and difficult.”

According to Caulford, most patients are on a three-month wait for OHIP. When someone becomes ill, they go to the volunteer clinic if their claim for citizenship has failed after their hearing.

According to Caulford, “70 per cent of claims are denied.”

There are a lot of tears in the office.

— Dr. Paul Caulford

“Those who are waiting for a hearing, their documents get reclassified downwards so that they don’t get their coverage unless there is a public safety risk,” Caulford said.

As a result, Caulford says refugees panic and flood the volunteer clinics because they find out their documents are unacceptable when they get turned away by regular clinics. The government doesn’t notify them.

“It’s no longer worth the paper it’s written on,” Caulford said. “It’s an internal decision that allows Citizenship and Immigration Canada to make these changes without telling anybody.”

The clinics also have to deal with the slow and tedious process of handling the paperwork for patients who have no coverage in the midst of the few hours that they’re open. According to Caulford, it has become mandatory for health care providers to phone Blue Cross when a refugee patient comes in.

“We have to stop what we’re doing in the middle of clinics and emergency rooms to phone Blue Cross to find out what kind of coverage a person has,” Caulford said. “When you phone it takes forever, and they close at 4:30 in the afternoon.”

Cortney Cook’s interview with Dr. Paul Caulford.

Because these patients are getting turned away from everywhere else, the clinics are left to deal with situations that require emergency care in hospitals.

On a number of occasions, Caulford has seen women come in ready to deliver a baby, diabetics and asthmatic children without proper medication, and developmentally delayed individuals who are panicking because they don’t know what’s wrong with them.

“We have some tragic cases of women who were covered at one point while waiting for their hearings. They’ve been waiting over a year with a pregnancy developing, and then they find out they’re not being covered. So then they’re seeking unwanted abortions,” Caulford said.

Both Caulford and Qureshi are doing the best they can to provide proper care, but Caulford says the refugees “eventually go to the hospitals and get huge bills.