Precarious patients: health professionals' perspectives on providing care to Mexican and Jamaican migrants in Canada's Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program

Publication type
Journal article
Cole DC, McLaughlin JE, Hennebry JL, Tew MA
Date published
2019 Dec 01
Rural and Remote Health
Open Access?

INTRODUCTION: The intersecting vulnerabilities of migrant agricultural workers (MAWs) impact both their health and their access to health care in rural areas, yet rural clinicians' voices are rarely documented. The purpose of this study was to explore health professionals' perspectives on health care for MAWs in sending countries and rural Ontario, Canada. METHODS: Qualitative research design occurred over three distinct projects, using a multi-methodological approach including semi-structured interviews in Mexico, Jamaica and rural Ontario (n=43), and session field notes and questionnaires administered to healthcare providers (n=65) during knowledge exchange sessions in rural Ontario. A systematic analysis of these data was done to identify common themes, using NVivo software initially and then Microsoft Excel for application of a framework approach. RESULTS: Structural challenges posed by migrant workers' context included difficulties preventing and managing work-related conditions, employers or supervisors compromising confidentiality, and MAWs' fears of loss of employment and return to countries of origin prior to completing treatments. Structural challenges related to health services included lack of adequate translation/interpretation services and information about insurance coverage and MAWs' work and living situations; scheduling conflicts between clinic hours and MAWs' availability; and difficulties in arranging follow-up tests, treatments and examinations. Intercultural challenges included language/communication barriers; cultural barriers /perceptions; and limited professional knowledge of MAWs' migration and work contexts and MAWs' knowledge of the healthcare system. Transnational challenges arose around continuity of care, MAWs leaving Canada during/prior to receiving care, and dealing with health problems acquired in Canada. A range of responses were suggested, some in place and others requiring additional organization, testing and funding. CONCLUSION: Funding to strengthen responses to structural and intercultural challenges, including research assessing improved supports to rural health professionals serving MAWs, are needed in rural Canada and rural Mexico and Jamaica, in order to better address the structural and intersecting vulnerabilities and the care needs of this specific population