Victoria, British Columbia, February 21, 2018– Finding a family physician in Greater Victoria is a challenge for many families and individuals. Now imagine that you are a Government Assisted Refugee family, new to Victoria, with limited language ability, few community connections and neglected healthcare needs as a result of displacement caused by the refugee crisis.
Dr. Ryan Herriot is the most recent family physician in Victoria to accept a resettled refugee family into his practice. Dr. Herriot acknowledges that lack of experience in refugee health and the time it can take to address complex health issues may be seen as barriers to accepting resettled refugee patients. However, Dr. Herriot believes that “the barriers to care are not so great. The Provincial Language Service medical translation line is fully funded and it works great. For the most part, the medical issues faced by resettled refugee patients are not unlike those of most patients in Canada.” Dr. Herriot hopes that other family physicians will step up and accept a resettled refugee family into their practices. “We all need to do our part,” he says.
What does having a family physician mean to a resettled refugee family? “Finally! Now we have a family doctor who can look after my family in Canada! It is so good news. Thank you! Thank you!”
Lack of availability of family physicians was identified as an area that required improvement in the 2017 Victoria Vital Signs Report. In 2015, there were 173 family physicians per 100,000 people in Southern Vancouver Island. ICA settlement staff, who work directly with newcomer refugees and immigrants, receive requests daily from clients to help them obtain access to a family physician. Together, ICA and SIDFP are working to improve access to family physicians for Government Assisted Refugees. Kate Longpre, the Community Integration Coordinator at ICA, maintains a database with GAR clients seeking family physicians. The database includes the basic make-up of the family as well as the neighbourhood where the clients live. The SIDFP Board of Directors identified GAR’s as a vulnerable population that warranted making attachment to a family physician an organizational priority. Gary Clarke, of the SIDFP, liaises with family physicians in Southern Vancouver Island to encourage doctors to take on GAR patients. GAR families are connect with physicians within close proximity to their residences.
If you would like more information about Health Care for Resettled Refugees please contact Kate Longpre, Community Integration Coordinator, at 250-388-4728 ext. 167 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elie Kozma, ICA’s Immigrant and Refugee Services Manager explains, “Government Assisted Refugees (GARs) receive Resettlement Assistance Program income benefits provided by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for 12 months. GAR’s do not arrive to Canada with a committed group of people, known as a constituent or community group, as do Privately Sponsored Refugees (PSRs). Although GAR’s are supported by a Resettlement Team and a Settlement Worker, community connections and social integration are limited. GAR’s are matched with a volunteer for the first 3 to 6 months, however volunteers usually have limited time and resources. This creates a circumstance where GAR’s must quickly learn how to navigate a foreign system with support from their workers and have to learn independence much faster which can be seen as a positive and a challenging concept especially when it comes to accessing GPs and connecting with the broader community.”
A report published in May 2017 by the ISSofBC indicated that 36% of respondents evaluated their overall family health as “fair” or “poor.” Access to medical care and family physicians is fundamental to personal and family well-being. Stable health and access to health care are important components of the resettlement process for resettled refugee families.
Island Health provides health care for 250 resettled refugees in the Victoria Region. Jo Rippin, is the Nurse Practitioner is the primary health care provider for resettled refugees through Island Health. Island Health facilitates the initial intake of resettled refugees, screening and assessment, perinatal care, immunizations, hearing and dental care as well as supporting resettled refugees as they learn to navigate the health system. Connie Haseldon, the Manager of Child, Youth and Family Community Health at Island Health confirms that Jo Rippin’s practice is at capacity and hopes that Family Physicians in Victoria can open their practices to resettled refugee patients. “Resettled refugees patients have suffered trauma which makes their medical needs slightly different than other patients however, providing medical care to this population is interesting and highly fulfilling work.” – Connie Haseldon
The Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria (ICA), the lead settlement and resettlement organization in the CRD, is contracted by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to provide services to Government Assisted Refugees (GARs) under the Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP).
The South Island Division of Family Practice comprises members from the Saanich Peninsula communities of Central Saanich, Sidney and North Saanich, and the West Shore communities of Colwood, Langford, Metchosin, and Sooke. The goal of the SIDFP is to provide the best health care possible for residents of the South Island region, as well as ongoing professional support for family physicians.