Hospital clerk fired after sending away injured refugee boy

Mother told she would have to pay $650 for treatment since temporary health coverage had expired
|employmentlawtoday.com|Last Updated: 11/06/2009

A registration clerk at an Ontario hospital has been fired after she turned away an injured seven-year-old immigrant child who didn’t have health coverage.

Brenda Araujo-Morales, 35, and her three sons came to Canada from Mexico in 2007 seeking refugee status from an abusive husband. They were given an interim federal health certificate that entitled them to public health coverage while their case was processed. However, the certificate expired in August 2009 and Araujo-Morales was told another one would be sent as her case had not been resolved yet.

On Oct. 2, Araujo-Morales’ seven-year-old son, Angel, fell and suffered a cut on his head. She hadn’t received her new health certificate yet so she called Telehealth, Ontairo’s telephone health care service and explained their circumstances. The Telehealth representative told her to take Angel to a hospital and he would be cared for. Once she received her new certificate, the representative said, she would be reimbursed for any expenses from Angel’s treatment.

Araujo-Morales took her sons to Humber River Regional Hospital in the north part of Toronto but when the registration clerk found out she didn’t have public health coverage, she told Araujo-Morales she would have to pay a service fee of $650 for somebody to see Angel.

Araujo-Morales didn’t have the money, so the clerk told her to go to a walk-in clinic. She walked for 20 minutes in the rain with Angel and her two other sons, aged 10 and 4, to the clinic, where Angel was treated by a doctor for $60.

A few days later, Araujo-Morales received a $650 bill from the hospital, even though no one had seen him.

After learning of the incident, Humber River fired the registration clerk for failing to meet hospital standards for dealing with patients, cancelled the charge and apologized to the family.

Humber River said the clerk was fired as soon as it confirmed the incident took place.

“Bottom line is we’re dedicated to providing high-quality, respectful care to all of our patients, period,” said Gerard Power, Humber River’s director of public and corporate communications.

However, Lolly Rico, the family’s caseworker, said the hospital needed to do more to educate staff on dealing with patients, particularly immigrants on interim federal health certificates.

“Firing someone is not a solution,” Rico told healthzone.ca. “You need to inform, educate and train your staff to be sensitive in dealing with the diverse community that you serve.”

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