Syrian Refugees

Summary of Health Care Resources Available to Syrian Refugees (Հայերեն տարբերակ)

What type of health benefits do Syrian refugees have?

  • Both privately sponsored and government assisted Syrian refugees have funding for basic health services provided through a Canadian federal government program called Interim Federal Health (IFH). Syrian refugees have IFH type 1 health benefits, which include basic coverage, supplemental coverage and prescription drug coverage. Health benefit coverage under IFH is limited to one year from the time of arrival in Canada.
  • Supplemental coverage includes benefits for limited dental (mostly for urgent care) and vision care services and products (e.g. cost of eye glasses). Services provided by other healthcare professionals (such as physiotherapy, psychological counseling services, and speech language therapy) are also covered. IFH provides funding for medical supplies, for example, hearing aids, mobility devices, diabetic supplies, etc. For more information on which health services are covered by the IFH, visit
  • Health care benefits vary from province to province, as the coverage of free services is defined by provincial health insurance plans. In Ontario it is Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). OHIP provides coverage for more health services than IFH basic health benefits; therefore, Syrian refugees are encouraged to apply for OHIP as soon as possible after their arrival. Typically, newcomers to Ontario must wait for three months prior to applying for OHIP, however this three-month waiting period is waived for Syrian refugees. IFH basic coverage will stop once the refugees apply for OHIP. However, Syrian refugees will continue to have access to IFH-funded supplemental benefits and prescription medications. Visit the OHIP website for more information at or go to a Service Ontario Centre near you.

Are medications provided free of charge?

  • Syrian refugees have limited drug coverage for one year through IFH. Some prescription medications, including those for many infectious diseases and major chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and asthma, are covered.
  • In contrast, OHIP does not cover prescription medications accessed outside of the hospital system. In general, medications used for treatment in hospitals are provided free of charge. Certain groups (the elderly and people with disabilities) do have access to free medications in Ontario.
  • Medications for infectious diseases of public health importance, such as tuberculosis and sexually transmitted infections, are provided free of charge through Ontario Public Health Units.
  • Most vaccinations are provided free of charge through Public Health or family physicians.

How do I access health care services?

  • In Canada, non-urgent medical services and referrals to specialists are accessed through family doctors. It is important to find a family doctor as soon as possible to maintain good health and identify health issues early on.
  • Urgent care is provided through walk-in clinics and urgent care centres. For health care options near you visit Individuals who do not have a family physician and who are seeking primary health care services can do so through a walk-in medical clinic.
  • Finding a family doctor in Ontario can be challenging for refugees due to language barriers. In the Greater Toronto area, refugees can access primary care with on-site translation services by calling 416-323-6400 ext. 5905.
  • Public health services, such as vaccinations, as well as testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, can be accessed through Public Health clinics. Note: to attend school in Ontario, children have to be vaccinated against certain diseases.
  • Emergency care is provided at community hospitals. In the Greater Toronto area, there is a long wait time at emergency departments. Try using other healthcare options first and avoid going to emergency departments for relatively minor issues.  
    organized an introductory lecture on health care system in Canada. The slides are available here.
  • Health care providers need to register with Medavie Blue Cross to be able to submit claims for health care services provided to Syrian refugees. More information about the benefits is available at
  • Please note that both privately sponsored and government assisted Syrian refugees are eligible for IFH type 1 coverage which include both basic coverage and supplemental coverage. Please visit the CIC website for more information:


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