“I can only say really good things about the healthcare system.”
A common misconception around migrant farm workers in Ontario is they don’t have access to the same healthcare as Ontario residents. While the workers may not be full-time Ontario residents, they do receive the same healthcare access to OHIP as permanent residents do in this province. In fact, it’s mandated under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) and Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program that workers receive this coverage.
Elly Hoff, Human Resource specialist at Meyer’s Farms (check out this The Grower article. Heated floors!!) in Niagara-on-the-Lake indicates that employers are responsible for making sure that workers are registered with OHIP.
Every five years, that means taking them to a physical location like a Service Ontario office to have an updated photo taken; in other years card renewals are done online.
Importantly, international workers like those arriving through the SAWP and other TFW programs are covered by OHIP even while workers wait for their new or updated cards to arrive. Healthcare providers are not allowed to deny critical care to them, and for non-urgent care where up -front payment may be requested by service providers, there is a reimbursement process once OHIP registration is completed.
In addition to having the same OHIP coverage as Ontarians, international workers often purchase supplemental private medical insurance through bulk deals brokered by their home country and which covers medical expenses such as certain diagnostic services and prescription drugs that fall outside of the services and drugs covered by OHIP. This is done to ensure workers have the comfort of knowing that they are always covered in some way.
With the healthcare system under stress from the COVID-19 pandemic, there were important initiatives in place for workers to receive information regarding vaccinations and COVID-19 safety. These initiatives included a non-mandatory vaccination clinic at the airport if workers wanted to get vaccinated on arrival and several other safety resources to allow them to make informed decisions about their health.
Of course, in a perfect world everyone would stay healthy during their time in Ontario. Despite proper safety and healthcare procedures in place, just like anywhere accidents and illnesses do occur.
Hoff shared a recent story of a worker who was diagnosed with cancer just weeks before his contract ended, when he was supposed to return home to Jamaica. Under normal circumstances, when a worker’s work contract expires, so does their OHIP coverage. In this case, there was a phenomenal team effort between Hoff, the Jamaican liaison office and local doctors in Ontario to ensure the worker would receive the healthcare required at no cost – exactly the same as an Ontario resident would be treated.
“Everyone seems to be working together for this young man. They are on it, and they are there for him,” Hoff said.
The worker continues to undergo cancer treatment in Ontario. We continue to think of him and hope for a recovery. He’s got a tough road ahead.