IH prepares to meet Syrian refugees’ health-care needs

With about 400 Syrian refugee families expected to arrive within the region served by Interior Health (IH), that agency is preparing to offer them a variety of health services via — if needed — Arabic-speaking interpreters.
Over the next three months, the Interior region is expecting up to 400 Syrian refugees. Compassionate volounteers with the Revelstoke for Refugees Committee is working to bring one  family here. The Interior region typically sees an average of 1,000 refugees arrive in the area each year.
“This is certainly a higher number than we are used to in a very short time period. It has provided us with an opportunity to focus on ensuring high quality, evidence-based health care for refugees and for all newcomers to our region,” Dr. Trevor Corneil, IH’s Chief Medical Health Officer and vice-president for Population Health, said in a statement released on Thursday, December 31.
IH’s Population Health Department has been working with primary-care centres, physicians and other health-care providers, community agencies and local municipal governments to develop a response plan to meet the health-care needs of refugees. The team has been working closely with staff from the Bridge Clinic in Vancouver — a preventive and primary care clinic for refugees in the Greater Vancouver area. Together, they have developed protocols, tools and training for health-care providers in the region, the statements said.
IH recognizes that many — perhaps even most — of the refugees may not speak English. Medical Health Officer Dr. Kamran Golmohammadi said translation/interpretation services will be engaged to help refugees.
“Generally the first point of access would be through a physician who would conduct an assessment and determine what the health-care needs are,” he said. “If counselling is necessary, referrals can be made to an appropriate service – all clinical care providers for refugees will have access to translation service.”
Population Health Program Manager Leslie Bryant MacLean said that while all refugees arriving in Canada from the Middle East receive basic health screening “at the local level we have to be prepared to deliver health-care services once they arrive in our region.”
“Immediate health-care needs will range from immunizations to access to medications and mental health supports,” she said. “We have been working to ensure providers have access to the information they need to provide care in a culturally sensitive manner, while also addressing challenges such as language barriers.”