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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The experiences of new immigrants seeking emergency healthcare in the city of Kelowna Awad, Emad


Several studies acknowledge that immigrants encounter barriers when accessing health care in large Canadian cities. Little is known about new immigrants’ access to emergency health care in mid-sized cities. This study explores the barriers faced by new immigrants when accessing emergency health care in the city of Kelowna, a mid-sized Canadian city, and the strategies new immigrants use to deal with these barriers. The data for this study were collected between April and August of 2015 through a survey of 40 new immigrants in Kelowna and follow-up interviews with a subsample of eight of the survey respondents. The results indicate that new immigrants face several barriers when accessing emergency health care in Kelowna: long wait times, perceived inadequacy of care, language barriers, lack of knowledge about the emergency care system, culturally incongruent care and perceived discrimination, and financial burdens. Additionally, the study demonstrates that a large proportion of new immigrants are not prepared to obtain health care during their first three months in Kelowna, primarily because they are unfamiliar with the emergency care services and provincial insurance policies. The province of British Columbia does not extend its health insurance coverage to immigrants during their first three months of residency and a large proportion of immigrants do not enroll in private medical insurance. Depending on the nature of the barriers to accessing emergency care, new immigrants use three main coping strategies: silence, help-seeking, and personal initiatives. Silence or non-action is a common response to system related barriers, while help-seeking is a common coping technique for non-system related barriers. Personal endeavors, such as using alternative care are commonly used by medically uninsured immigrants during their first three months in Canada while waiting for provincial insurance coverage. The results of this study yield policy and practice recommendations aiming at improving new immigrants’ access to emergency health care. Recommendations derived from the findings of this study are to reduce the wait time in emergency departments, reevaluate the policy of a three-month wait for provincial insurance coverage, educate new immigrants about the emergency care system, and improve the quality of care provided in emergency departments.

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