News / Ottawa

Mental health and PTSD: Ottawa medical workers discuss Syrian refugees

About 150 medical professionals meet for workshop on what works, what doesn't on Syrian refugee resettlement efforts.

Louisa Taylor, director of Refugee 613, speaks to a crowd of medical professionals at the Dominion-Chalmers United Church on Thursday. Also with her are (left to right) Jack McCarthy of the Somerset West Community Health Centre, Paul Soubliere of the Catholic Centre for Immigrants and Dr. Azaad Kassam of the Queensway-Carleton Hospital.

lucy scholey/metro

Louisa Taylor, director of Refugee 613, speaks to a crowd of medical professionals at the Dominion-Chalmers United Church on Thursday. Also with her are (left to right) Jack McCarthy of the Somerset West Community Health Centre, Paul Soubliere of the Catholic Centre for Immigrants and Dr. Azaad Kassam of the Queensway-Carleton Hospital.

When should a medical worker screen a Syrian refugee for post-traumatic stress disorder? And what cultural barriers do refugees face when accessing mental health services?

About 150 local medical health workers gathered at the Dominion-Chalmers United Church on Thursday to talk about caring for the influx of government-assisted Syrian refugees. 

“Logistically, it has been very challenging,” said Tara Matte, of the Pinecrest Queensway Community Health Centre, which has been doing drop-ins at the hotels where government-assisted refugees are temporarily housed. “For the first three weeks, there were changes following every session … because the number of people changed, the schedules changed, (and) our availability of Arabic-speaking staff was a challenge.”

Apart from medical assessments, some doctors must also help refugees navigate Canada's health care system.

“I can write a prescription, send somebody out, but it doesn’t get filled because they don’t know what to do with it,” said Dr. Shaun Mattas, a Centretown Community Health Centre family physician.

Refugee 613, a non-profit organization coordinating the resettlement efforts, hosted the workshop after asking for a break from the flow of government-assisted refugees.

So far, little more than 1,000 refugees have landed in the nation’s capital – and most are government-assisted. This came as a surprise, said Refugee 613 director Louisa Taylor.

There will be other workshops for people interested in the Syrian refugee resettlement efforts, including one on housing.