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Do South Asians immigrants make higher demands on healthcare?

Pradip Rodrigues

So last week NDP Federal leader Jagmeet Singh in a campaign speech declared that if elected, he would build a hospital in Brampton in order to alleviate the over-crowding in other facilities. Mind you, he didn’t promise a university or a network of institutes offering free internet skills training, he echoed what the community needs most- a hospital or even several hospitals to keep up with the growing needs of Brampton in particular.

According to Census Canada, Brampton’s senior population rose by 40% between 2011 and 2016, to total 66,270. Going by the sheer demand, which is rising really fast, this is a problem.

The findings also reveal that the proportion of seniors in Canada will climb to 21 per cent over the next decade from its current level of 16.9 per cent along with health care costs. Average senior care is about $12,000 per year, compared to $2,700 for everyone else.

Brampton is one of the fastest growing cities in North America it is a magnet for able-bodied young newcomers, hardy refugees and asylum seekers, so to many Canadians unfamiliar with ethnic societies why is the number of seniors growing at such a fast clip. You would think that a city with such a large number of new immigrant families would be demanding more nursery schools rather than nursing homes.

Sure there are many seniors who grew up, worked and paid their fair share of taxes in Brampton but lets be honest, a large and growing segment of seniors have been sponsored by new immigrants who often need them to babysit and when they get older or sicker demand the government provide ethnic-specific nursing homes. One South Asian said that almost everyone on his street has one, two or more seniors living with their children. Almost every immigrant he knew from India had already or were planning to bring in their senior parents to Canada because primarily health care is free. So, while NDPs Jagmeet Singh may blame other political parties and politicians for not investing enough in healthcare, neither he nor any politician or doctor is willing to admit that the problem of overcrowding is worsening due to the growing number of seniors with expensive healthcare needs who’ve been sponsored late in life. Adding to the burden on the health care system, a growing number of young South Asian immigrants are suffering diabetes.

Politicians and other social scientists love to remind us that immigrants are required in order to pay for the healthcare costs for Canadian seniors, but how can that happen if new or newish immigrants themselves suffer chronic diseases like diabetes? How is sponsoring parents and grandparents who have not contributed to the system helping solve the crisis of an ageing society?
A Fraser Institute report titled Canadian Family Class Immigration: The Parent and Grandparent Component estimates that each parent or grandparent admitted to Canada in their lifetime costs taxpayers roughly $300,000.

It is estimated that in Canada, people with diabetes have medical expenses that are up to three times higher than people who don’t have the disease. In fact, a person with diabetes can face direct costs for medication and diabetes supplies ranging between $5,000 and $15,000 per year. These costs include medications, testing strips, and equipment such as needles, lancets and pump supplies.

South Asians from India living in Ontario have a diabetes prevalence rate of 18 per cent, compared to 11 per cent in the general population. South Asians are predisposed to the development of diabetes due to biologic and lifestyle factors and making matters worse, they experience significant morbidity and mortality from complications of diabetes, most notably coronary artery disease, cerebrovascular disease and chronic kidney disease.

Meanwhile the average Canadian family is expected to pay $12,935 for public health care through taxes this year according to the Fraser Institute, which also pegs the average health care cost for single Canadians at $4,640, more than double what it was two decades ago.

No amount of money thrown at the health care problem will ever solve the issue of demand and supply. Between 2011/12 and 2021/22, new cases of diabetes are estimated to result in $15.36 billion in Canadian health care costs, almost two-thirds of which will be spent on acute hospitalizations and physician services (65.1%).

I strongly suspect that it is the promise of free healthcare that is causing more Canadians to take their health for granted. When it comes to severe over-crowding in Brampton hospitals, it is always the city, the province and the federal government who is blamed for poor planning and decisions. No one will dare blame a large number of residents who are earning a tax-free income by renting out their basements and rooms, these residents also sponsor their senior parents who double up as babysitters which allows them to claim a tax write-off. In the years to come Brampton will need several new hospitals, nursing homes and of course ethnic-specific senior facilities because most new immigrants now consider sponsoring their ageing parents as a right. Denying them that right could be seen as a violation of human rights. Canadians meanwhile should be brace themselves for higher taxes… and not complain! -CINEWS


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