Migrant women in a precarious situation | “You must not leave a person without care”

A family denounces the health insurance gaps suffered by pregnant migrant women in precarious conditions

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William Theriault

William Theriault
The print

In January 2020, Katerine Forero had to give birth in Montreal in difficult conditions: without health insurance or money, because she was a migrant woman in precarious conditions. The Doctors of the World organization, which cares for marginalized people, reports that it witnesses about 300 similar cases a year.

Originally from Venezuela, Katerine gave birth to her first daughter at Maisonneuve-Rosemont hospital. At that time, she did not have a Régie de l’Assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ) card. It was her husband, Emmanuel Bencosme, who paid all the medical bills.

In Quebec, a simple delivery costs $ 8,934 to $ 17,280 for a person who doesn’t have health insurance. Since Emmanuel was covered by RAMQ, some childcare costs may have been deducted from his account.

But the amount for the doctor’s work was still around $ 3,000. “I only have $ 500 left in my account,” he says. I didn’t know what to do. My wife gives birth to a human being, she acts as if she is an object that we have to pay for. I totally disagree. ”

Emmanuel Bencosme claims he was pressured by the hospital administration to pay a sum he did not have on hand. “They asked me for the last $ 500 I had,” he says. I couldn’t pay the rent. The CIUSSS de l’Est-de-l’Île-de-Montréal, of which the establishment is a member, said The print that he would not publicly comment on the case.

I could make millions, I’ll never give him a dime. For me, before, Canada was a place where people could find inner or economic peace. This kind of thing makes me change my mind.

Emanuele Bencosme

Katerine Forero now thinks that the government should be more attentive to migrant women in precarious conditions. So she was, before obtaining her permanent residence shortly before the birth of her second daughter, in September 2021.

“I find the way the women who come here are treated unfair,” she said The print. No matter where they come from, you don’t have to leave a person without care. ”

Presentation of a brief

Minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, last year gave RAMQ the mandate to work on a possible amendment to Bill 83, which allowed access to health insurance for some children whose parents have a precarious migratory status.

On March 17, Doctors of the World presented a memorandum to the working committee of bill 83. Supported by about twenty medical specialists, this document recommends that “the Quebec government act without delay to ensure, to all women living in Québec, the health benefit services insured by public health insurance and prescription drug insurance plans. ”His focus is primarily on sexual and reproductive health.

The precarious migratory status includes different categories of people, says Ms.And Pearl Eliadis, associate professor at McGill University’s Max Bell Public Policy School. This includes foreign students, women awaiting sponsorship, those with a temporary work visa, women who have arrived illegally or whose status has expired.

“The average salary of a precarious family is around $ 900 a month. Some of these people don’t eat because they are paying for their medical bills. It’s a spiral that pulls people into vulnerability, ”explains Doctors of the World CEO Nadja Pollaert.


PHOTO ROBERT SKINNER, THE PRESS

Nadja Pollaert, Director General of Doctors of the World, and Pénélope Boudreault, Director of National Operations of Doctors of the World

“When they [les femmes migrantes à statut précaire qui sont enceintes] they come to the medical examination, they receive the metro tickets ”, denounces colleague Pénélope Boudreault, director of national operations for Doctors of the World and a nurse. “It’s a choice: they pay for a lab and prenatal vitamins, or they endure vomiting so they don’t have to pay. ”

Often these women arrive late in their pregnancy without having had a single ultrasound. “Often these are women who will not fight for their rights, who are afraid to disturb, who are afraid of immigration, who think they are abusing the system,” explains Pénélope Boudreault. I once had a woman who waited 28 weeks for her first ultrasound. Her baby had died in utero. ”

RAMQ confirmed to The print which would issue its recommendations by the end of June, as requested by Minister Dubé.

Learn more

  • 50,000
    Approximate number of precarious migrants who have no health coverage in Quebec. This represents 0.6% of the population.

    Source: Sherpa College

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