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Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman will call the federal immigration minister to try to keep a temporary foreign worker in Canada so she can get medical help for injuries suffered on her way to work.
If a deportation order can somehow be stayed, Hoffman said it may be easier for Vicky Venancio to get diagnostic tests, full physiotherapy and medication to help her better recover after she was hit by a truck while biking to her McDonald’s job in Mill Woods in June 2012.
That crash left Venancio paralyzed with limited use of her arms. Because she could no longer work, her temporary work permit expired, as did her Alberta health coverage. Her deportation was ordered in February.
“The No. 1 thing she asked me to do, and I’ve committed to, is to make sure we advocate on her behalf to immigration, that the federal minister has the ability to grant compassionate leave,” Hoffman said Thursday after meeting with Venancio and her supporters at the legislature. The meeting lasted about 40 minutes.
Hoffman, who indicated she would call the federal minister Thursday to schedule a formal discussion, said she will also ask people in her department to find if there are ways for Venancio to get appointments with specialists, X-rays and management for daily pain. She said she doesn’t know if health-care benefits can be reinstated.
“It’s quite heartbreaking and I couldn’t imagine being a quadriplegic in my own country, let alone being away from your family and your language and your culture,” Hoffman said. “She’s definitely a woman of strength and determination. … She clearly wants to work and be a contributing member of society in the long term. That’s great. We need that in Canada.”
Venancio, who receives free care from her family doctor, was optimistic after meeting Hoffman.
“She said she can’t promise anything right now, but she will do everything to help me,” said Venancio, 29. “I can see a person who has a good heart and it makes you feel important.”
Venancio, originally from the Philippines, said she has become more independent and can transfer herself from her wheelchair to her bed, as well as walk 20 metres with a walker. But all her physiotherapy came outside of the traditional health system, such as a University of Alberta study called ReWalk. Community donations have also helped.
“If I have this progress without any coverage, what more if I have it already,” Venancio said. “Being in a wheelchair, every day is a battle for your life.”
Dr. Kathleen Baergen, who does home visits for Venancio for free, said Venancio has not seen a neurologist or had followup imaging or tests to determine what is causing her pain. Venancio also needs tailor-made physical therapy, Baergen said.
“Separate from what I do as a family doctor, she has almost no other use of health-care services,” Baergen said. “It’s quite discouraging.”
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