Providing easily accessible and appropriate healthcare services to newcomers to Alberta is important to us.
For many years, Alberta Health Services (AHS) has worked with partner agencies to meet the needs of refugees and others arriving in the province.
Since 2016, when Canada Immigration announced the Syrian refugee resettlement program, AHS has worked hard to ensure these particular new Canadians receive the health services and supports they need.
We understand the importance of ensuring all Albertans – including refugees and newcomers - are able to easily access healthcare services, and we also understand that this can sometimes be challenging for a number of reasons, including language and cultural barriers.
We are also aware that sometimes, the healthcare system can be difficult to navigate, particularly for those new to this country and province.
That is why we are constantly working to ensure those barriers are removed when it comes to the assessment and care of Government Assisted Refugees.
In Edmonton, AHS has a contract with Catholic Social Services, which runs the New Canadians Clinic.
As part of this contract, AHS funded a clinic assistant and home support worker services. AHS also provides public health nurses onsite to complete patient intake assessments, and recently took over the coordination of placing Government Sponsored Refugees with the most suitable primary care services.
Many hundreds of refugees have benefited from this service, with many of them placed with family physicians interested in taking on the care of Government Assisted Refugees. In North Edmonton, in particular, we are helped by the fact that more than a third of family physicians speak Arabic.
We are also able to utilize our Language Line for Interpretation Services, which is available to all AHS staff and the North Edmonton Primary Care Network Physicians, helping ease the language barrier, which in turn helps us provide better care.
The Language Line service is available 24/7, in more than 200 different languages. Translation services are also available through Health Link (811), and Mental Health services are also available with translation.
We are proud of the work we have done, with our partners, to help those who come to this province. However, it recently became apparent that the New Canadians Clinic was too small to serve the growing number of refugees in need of healthcare support.
So, earlier this month (April), AHS took over the formal role of coordinating the health screening and intake of all Government Assisted Refugees. This is now taking place at the East Edmonton Health Centre (EEHC).
Our team at EEHC includes a New Canadians Registered Nurse who works with the Immunization Outreach RNs to provide thorough health assessments, referrals to required healthcare services, immunizations, and connections to their local Public Health Centre.
Coordinated refugee healthcare out of the EEHC will enable us to better address urgent health concerns in a more familiar setting, utilizing the EEHC’s Urgent Care Centre.
Our staff at EEHC are also able to perform weekly intake and triage assessments, determine the need for less urgent and chronic health concerns, refer pregnant women to prenatal programs such as the EEHC’s Community Perinatal Program, and ensure refugees receive immunizations within one month of their arrival in Edmonton.
Bringing the coordination of refugee healthcare to EEHC has other significant benefits, allowing EEHC staff to better utilize the existing programs at the site, including the Family Care Clinic, the Urgent Care Clinic, the Public health Clinic, the Community Perinatal Program, Mental Health services, Home Care and Laboratory and Diagnostic Imaging.
Staff at EEHC are also able to refer families to the Tuberculosis Clinic as required, and will continue to collaborate with Catholic Social Services to provide health education at CSS’s Newcomer’s Orientation Program for Life in Canada.
We are confident that this new approach will ensure our new Canadians – and in particular, our friends from Syria – continue to receive the care and support they need as they ease their way into their new lives.
We know that by helping some Albertans, we help all.
For more information on AHS services for refugees, please visit www.albertahealthservices.ca/info/refugee.aspx