Welcome to Island Health

On August 1 st, we launched our new public website:


and a new website for medical staff:


Our website was developed in partnership with patients and residents of Vancouver Island and the surrounding regions. It's accessible, mobile friendly and flexible to help us evolve with our communities as we work towards excellent health and care for everyone, everywhere, every time.

Come visit the new sites and update your bookmarks. This www.viha.ca site will continue to be available for one month so that our staff and partners have time to update their links to the new site. You can still browse the old site but it will no longer be updated.


Information for Physicians

The information provided here is to support the care of newcomer and refugee clients.

The Newcomer and Refugee Clinical Care Pathway (pdf) is a primary care resource for Vancouver Island physicians providing care for Syrian refugees. This document includes recommendations for screening and care, community resources, and information about the Interim Federal Health insurance program coverage and billing registration for physicians.


Can I bill for care provided to refugees?

Yes. Upon arrival in Canada, refugees can apply for Medical Services Plan (MSP) and Interim Federal Health  (IFH). Typically MSP becomes active after 3 months, and the IFH within days. IFH covers physician services, labs and investigations, medications on BC formulary and supplemental services such as basic dental care, optometry and physiotherapy. Providers must register with IFH in order to bill for their services.

What does Interim Federal Health (IFH) cover?

ALL Syrian refugees who arrived after Nov. 4, 2015 have full IFH coverage covering: 

For a list of IFH registered health service providers, visit:

What medical screening has been done as part of the Immigration Medical Exam (IME)?

All Syrian refugees have had an IME in Lebanon or Jordan prior to coming to Canada and have been given a paper copy of the results. An IME includes a history, physical, and age¬ dependent investigations including a chest x-ray, HIV and syphilis and urinalysis. However, records of this screening information is typically not available to patients or physicians once refugees have arrived in Canada.

What screening do I need to do?

The CCIRH Evidence Based Preventive Care Checklist for New Immigrants and Refugees from the Central Middle East is an excellent guide to screening. The form is available as a PDF on the Resource Page of Profile EMR; it can be printed, completed, and scanned into EMR.

How do I communicate with my Arabic speaking patient?

If you are working from an Island Health clinic or hospital, you can access an Arabic interpreter by calling the Provincial Language Service (PLS) at 1.888.603.5087 and entering the site specific access code. With notice, the following settlement organizations can sometimes provide an interpreter to accompany the patient to medical visits: 

How do I know which vaccines my Syrian patients need?

If a patient has no documented vaccination history, assume that (s)he has had no vaccinations and follow the provincial immunization ‘catch-up’ schedule. Consider a referral to a public health unit.

Where do I refer my refugee patient with trauma-related mental health issues?

The new Provincial Toll Free Refugee Mental Health Line (1-866-393-3133) is operated by the Vancouver Association for Survivors of Torture (VAST) and provides consultation during working hours. IFH covers counseling by a registered clinical psychologist or psychiatrist who is registered with IFH, with prior approval. Consider referral to a community mental health team or psychiatrist.   

For refugee and immigrants living on Vancouver Island, the Immigrant and Refugee Wellness Center at the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society (250-361-9433) is a network of mental health counsellors who are willing to see clients from this population. Patients or providers should call VIRCS and book an appointment with the Wellness Centre. This may be also appropriate for patients who do not have or no longer have IFH coverage.  Although based in Victoria, the Wellness Centre is building counselling capacity in communities across Vancouver Island, so referrals can be made from all parts of the island.

Who can I refer my refugee family for ongoing primary care?

Some Divisions of Family Practice on Vancouver Island are maintaining a list of family doctors in different communities that will accept refugee patients and IFH insurance. In the South Island, the South Island Division of Family Practice is coordinating this for the area.  Please contact the Divisions directly for more information.

The Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society is also running a health clinic that may be able to accept refugee patients. Please contact VIRCS for more information.

What supports are available to help my client quit smoking?

Newcomers interested in quitting smoking are eligible for the BC Smoking Cessation Program once their B.C. Medical Services Plan is active. Interested clients can sign up for the program at their local pharmacy.

The program covers 12 weeks per year of free nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products such as the patch, gum, inhaler, or lozenges. These are available at a pharmacy after signing up. The program also covers medications prescribed by a physician or nurse practitioner to assist with quitting, but people may need to be on Pharmacare before getting funded for this. The Interim Federal Health (IFH) program does not cover cessation medications.

QuitNow offers toll-free telephone support by calling 1-877-455-2233. For translation services, the caller should say ”Arabic” at the beginning of the call, and an Arabic translator will be requested. There may be a short delay for the translator to come on the line.  Online chat support is also available at QuitNow.ca.  This service is currently only available in English.

Handout: HealthLinkBC - Smoking Cessation (Arabic) (PDF)