Doctors gearing up to provide Syrian refugees with much-needed primary health care
When Syrian refugees begin arriving in Canada in the coming weeks, one of the top priorities will be getting them basic health care - something most migrants will have gone without while living in makeshift camps far from home, sometimes for years.
“I think this group - and I think it’s true of all refugees, but perhaps more so for the Syrians what they need is really good primary care,” said Dr. Meb Rashid, medical director of the Crossroads clinic at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, which specializes in immigrant health.
Crossroads is one of several clinics that will provide health services to Syrian refugees who come to Toronto, which could take in thousands of migrants over the next few months.
“We’re anticipating a fairly significant surge for our clinics starting relatively quickly after arrival,” said Rashid.
“What we’re anticipating in this group is a lot of garden-variety primary care - kids who need their immunizations, children who have failure to thrive, people who are diabetic and don’t know it or people who are diabetic and haven’t been able to get their medications or assessments.”
Refugees will undergo medical testing before they are allowed on a plane bound for Canada, with screening for such communicable diseases as tuberculosis, although Rashid said reports from Europe suggest TB rates among Syrian migrants are relatively low.
Doctors also don’t foresee more common transmissible diseases to be a major concern among refugees, although there may be cases of infectious diarrhea and leishmaniasis, a parasitic infection that affects the skin.
“But certainly we’re not expecting the type of infectious diseases we see in many other refugee migrations,” he said.