MSF worked in Switzerland from 2003 to 2009
Why were we there?
- Health care exclusion
Undocumented migrants have great difficulty accessing health care in Switzerland. Although officially the Swiss Constitution guarantees access to the health system for all, thousands of people, often due to their lack of health insurance or their fear of being reported and expelled from the country, are left without proper medical care.
In January 2006, MSF set up a project called Meditrina, which provided free medical consultations for these people. In January 2010, the Swiss Red Cross took over this project.
Located in a small alley of downtown Zurich, the MSF Meditrina clinic provided more than 1,100 free consultations in 2009, bringing the total since the beginning of the project in 2006 to more than 3,400. Furthermore, hundreds of patients were referred to a network of medical and paramedical specialists who provided confidential consultations and medical care.
Around 50 percent of Meditrina’s patients are migrants living without documents in the Zurich area, but many others, despite their legitimate status, came to the MSF clinic because they could not or did not know how to access public health care.
The most common conditions found in patients at the Meditrina clinic were gastrointestinal, dental and dermatological. Many patients also showed psychological disorders, often linked to their difficult living conditions. Meditrina also provided testing, counseling and long-term treatment for chronic diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.
After setting up and establishing Meditrina as a reliable and functioning entry point to the Swiss health care system for Zurich’s undocumented people, MSF looked for an organization to take over the project long term. The Zurich branch of the Swiss Red Cross, already involved in providing care to those who need it most, took over the project at the beginning of 2010.