The BC government has promised to provide “immediate” health coverage to displaced Ukrainians who arrive in the province on emergency travel visas, waiving the three months newcomers typically must wait to enroll.
Anyone who has qualified for the federal government’s Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET) visa should apply for Medical Services Plan coverage as soon as they arrive in British Columbia, the ministries of health and municipal affairs announced in a joint press release on Monday .
“Ukrainians arriving in BC are beginning a new chapter of their lives as they settle in Canada and will need proper health supports,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a news release.
“By giving individuals arriving in BC from Ukraine day-of-arrival MSP coverage, we’re doing what we can for one of the most important aspects of their journey: health and safety.”
In an interview with CTV News, the municipal affairs minister, who is spearheading the provincial response, said newly arrived Ukrainians can walk right into an urgent care center or hospital for medical care or a prescription, if they need it, without waiting for paperwork.
“We’ve made low-cost and free mental health services available (as well),” said Nathan Cullen, pointing out they don’t know exactly how many people are coming, when, or where they’ll arrive. “We’re doing a cross-government approach with this program to make sure that all of the different ministries from education to housing and health, income support — all of those ministries are working in cooperation to see the supports we need — again , we learn as people arrive.”
Officials noted some refugees will likely be in need of medical services quickly upon their arrival, from prescription drugs to specialized care.
GRATITUDE AND QUESTIONS FROM THE COMMUNITY
The president of the BC chapter of the Ukrainian-Canadian Congress was relieved and grateful to hear that healthcare will be easy to obtain, but said there are still questions about who’s eligible.
“We have a few pregnant young women who arrived we don’t know if they’ll be covered for the delivery,” said Iryna Shyroka. “We also have seniors who originally have not applied for the work permit status, they’ve just applied for the visa, and now apparently they are not eligible for the MSP coverage because they don’t have a work permit.”
Millions of Ukrainians have fled the country amid Russia’s brutal invasion, forced to leave behind most of their possessions and, in some cases, their family pets.
CUAET visas were introduced to help expedite the process of getting Ukrainians settled into their temporary homes in Canada, allowing them to stay in the country for three years and find work “as quickly as possible,” according to the government’s website.
With the federal government only committing to six weeks of financial support for incoming Ukrainians, daycare is a top priority for local advocates, who point out most of the families are essentially single mothers with children; Ukrainian men under 60 are prohibited from leaving the country.
“In order to go and use their work permit and enter the workforce, they will need childcare which is not available right now,” said Shyroka. “We’re also looking for more support on housing because right now we’re mostly relying on Canadians offering their homes.”