Connecting refugees to health services

Maamoun Almeslmani and his two of his children, Tuqa (centre) and Hasan (left), at the Halifax Transitional Health Clinic for Refugees

What once was a trickle has turned into a flood, with the arrival of 1,400 refugees in Nova Scotia in 2016. As health care providers scrambled to prepare facilities, teams and protocols for assessing and serving refugees’ immediate health needs, researchers were looking ahead to how best to move families out of refugee-specific transitional services and into primary care services in their new communities. 

Dr. Tara Sampalli teamed up with Graeme Kohler, primary health care health services manager in NSHA’s Central Zone, to develop and test a transition process. They received a Translating Research Into Care (TRIC) grant to get started. 

“The first issues we address with refugee families are infectious-diseases checks and immunizations, cancer screenings, and chronic disease management,” notes Kohler. “This is done with help from interpreters, in conjunction with other settlement activities. But eventually we need to connect families to a practitioner in their own community and make room for new families in the transitional clinic.” 

The question is, how do providers know when families are ready for their own primary care provider? Is their English good enough? Do they have the means to travel to another clinic? How should the transition process unfold? 

Dr. Sampalli and Kohler and their colleagues are designing and testing a transition process, including readiness screening tools. “We’re the only ones in Canada doing this research,” Dr. Sampalli says. “We want to partner with other provinces to shape and evaluate the health services transition process for refugees and share our findings with other countries grappling with this issue.”

This article is from NSHA Research Annual Report 2016 (PDF)