Refugee Care

Trauma informed practice

If a refugee is urgently unwell upon arrival, take them to the nearest Emergency Department. Present any health insurance at the registration desk.

Health Insurance

The following health insurance is available to privately sponsored refugees (PSRs):

  • Medical Service Plan (MSP): Typically takes three months from application to become active
  • Interim Federal Health (IFH): Effective within days of application, for one year

Registering with MSP

Enrolment is not automatic. Upon arrival, refugees will need assistance with MSP registration. Complete the MSP Application for Enrolment form  and send it to Health Insurance BC with copies of each individual’s immigration documents.

Call HIBC at 1-800-663-7100 and ask for an enrolment specialist with any questions.

Registering with Interim Federal Health (IFH)

Syrian refugees arriving through Toronto and Montreal should receive their IFH papers upon entry into Canada. If newcomers are not Syrian or do not have an IFH certificate, apply for IFH online and mail the application to the BC CIC office.

What does IFH cover?

AllSyrian refugees who arrived after Nov. 4, 2015 have full IFH coverage covering:

Supplemental services such as basic dental care, optometry, physiotherapy & counseling refugees without RAP have IFH coverage for physician services, and lab and diagnostic tests. Their medication coverage is limited to prescriptions for public health and safety. They have no coverage for supplemental services such as dentistry or optometry.

Finding a family doctor and dentist

Some Divisions of Family practice on Vancouver Island are maintaining a list of family doctors in different communities that accept IFH insurance. 

The Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society  is also running a health clinic that may be able to accept refugee patients. Please contact them for more information.

If your family doctor is willing to take refugees, but isn’t registered with IFH, they can register by completing the IFH Provider Registration Form and returning it by email, fax or post, or registering on the provider’s website by clicking “Request Account” link on the top right of the screen.

For more information, call Medavie Blue Cross at 1-888-614-1880.

The Interim Federal Health Program maintains a list of dentists that have registered with IFH insurance. For more information, visit BC Dental Association.

Communication assistance during medical visits for non-English speaking refugees

Island Health sites have access to phone interpreters through the Provincial Language Service at 1.888.603.5087. With notice, the following settlement organizations can sometimes provide an interpreter to accompany the patient to medical visits: 

Additional Tests, Vaccinations and Prescriptions

Labs, X-rays and prescriptions

Island Health outpatient labs and x-ray departments accept IFH, as do some private offices (see list of registered IFH providers). Always show IFH papers and MSP if available when accessing services. A government-issued photo ID (such as the single-journey travel document issued by the Canadian government) may also be required.

To fill a prescription, see Island Health’s list to find a pharmacy that accepts IFH. Some medications are covered for some patients - see the above information regarding “What does IFH cover?”

If the refugee patient is asked for money by the lab/x-ray/pharmacy even though she has IFH coverage, do not pay.  Even if this is an error, it is extremely difficult to be reimbursed.  Show the provider the IFH certificate, ID if required and MSP card if available. Ensure the provider is registered with IFH. Tell the provider to call the patient’s family physician to clarify coverage. 


Coordinate with the family doctor or directly contact your local Public Health Office to set up an appointment to have vaccinations reviewed and offered for the whole family.

Checklist for Sponsors

To ensure successful integration into the healthcare system, please review the list below and verify that all items have been completed. 

On the First Day:

❏ Provide access to healthcare for urgent medical needs 
❏ Provide information on emergency services 911, nearest hospital 

Within First 2 Weeks:  

❏ Set up medical appointment with community family doctor for each family member
❏ Set up vaccination appointment - either with family doctor or local public health office
❏ Register for Interim Federal Health Insurance (IFH) 
❏ Register for MSP 

Before the end of the first year:

❏ Set up optometrist or dental appointments if necessary (within first 6 months) 
❏ Apply for Pharmacare just before the one year mark 
❏ Apply for Low Income Cut Off (LICO) Dental Insurance in B.C.

Support to Quit Smoking

Newcomers interested in quitting smoking are eligible for the BC Smoking Cessation Programonce their B.C. Medical Services Plan is active. Interested clients can sign up for the program at their local pharmacy.

The program covers 12 weeks per year of free nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products such as the patch, gum, inhaler, or lozenges. These are available at a pharmacy after signing up. The program also covers medications prescribed by a physician or nurse practitioner to assist with quitting, but people may need to be on Pharmacare before getting funded for this. The Interim Federal Health (IFH) program does not cover cessation medications.

QuitNow offers toll-free telephone support by calling 1-877-455-2233. For translation services, the caller should say ”Arabic” at the beginning of the call, and an Arabic translator will be requested. There may be a short delay for the translator to come on the line.  Online chat support is also available at  This service is currently only available in English.

Learn more: HealthLinkBC - Smoking Cessation (Arabic) 


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