Health care seeking among detained undocumented migrants: a cross-sectional study

Dorn, Tina; Ceelen, Manon; Ming-Jan Tang; Browne, Joyce L.; de Keijzer, Koos J. C.; Buster, Marcel C. A.; Das, Kees
January 2011
BMC Public Health;2011, Vol. 11 Issue 1, p190
Academic Journal
Background: As in many European countries, access to care is decreased for undocumented migrants in the Netherlands due to legislation. Studies on the health of undocumented migrants in Europe are scarce and focus on care-seeking migrants. Not much is known on those who do not seek care. Methods: This cross-sectional study includes both respondents who did and did not seek care, namely undocumented migrants who have been incarcerated in a detention centre while awaiting expulsion to their country of origin. A consecutive sample of all new arrivals was studied. Data were collected through structured interviews and reviews of medical records. Results: Among the 224 male migrants who arrived at the detention centre between May and July 2008, 173 persons were interviewed. 122 respondents met inclusion criteria. Only half of the undocumented migrants in this study knew how to get access to medical care in the Netherlands if in need. Forty-six percent of respondents reported to have sought medical help during their stay in the Netherlands while having no health insurance (n = 57). Care was sought most frequently for injuries and dental problems. About 25% of these care seekers reported to have been denied care by a health care provider. Asian migrants were significantly less likely to seek care when compared to other ethnic groups, independent from age, chronic health problems and length of stay in the Netherlands. Conclusion: The study underlines the need for a better education of undocumented patients and providers concerning the opportunities for health care in the Netherlands. Moreover, there is a need to further clarify the reasons for the denial of care to undocumented patients, as well as the barriers to health care as perceived by undocumented migrants.


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