03/13/2014 08:27 EDT | Updated 05/13/2014 05:59 EDT

Chris Alexander, I'm Sorry I Treated an Abused Refugee in My Hospital

Dear Minister Alexander,

I have a confession: Two weeks ago, I treated a refugee claimant. At the time I did not feel I had done anything wrong -- in fact I felt good about the care I provided. After hearing your recent interviews, however, I can't help but feel physically ill about the catastrophe I have created.

I had no idea that providing even basic health care to refugee claimants "is irresponsible as it makes Canada... a magnet for bogus asylum seekers" as you explained.

I had no idea how fragile our immigration system is and that it relied on me, a physician, to police it. I had no idea I could cripple the system by letting refugees into my clinic.

I am a proud Canadian. I vote, I pay my taxes and I do everything I can to support this great country. As a Canadian physician I am proud of the care I provide and I care deeply for my patients.

Therefore, Mr. Alexander, I turn to you for guidance on what to do the next time this patient comes to my clinic: a gay man who fled his country because it is a crime to be homosexual. This man was beaten and persecuted by his community and his family. He is not able to work in Canada because he can not acquire a work visa and instead volunteers with local charities. He contracted HIV, and without treatment he will die. I would very much like to help this gentleman, but I understand the sacrifice he must make to ensure that our refugee determination system does not implode.

Perhaps in your next briefing you could provide a script for doctors like myself to use the next time someone comes to the hospital with a heart attack, threatening to kill themselves or with any other complaint for which they may not be covered.

Or maybe you could find time in your very busy schedule to meet with the physicians working directly with refugee claimants and teach them in person. I understand they have had difficulty trying to arrange a meeting with you.

My sincerest regrets,

Dr. Hasan Sheikh and Dr. Alex Caudarella


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