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Ex-TFW in Canada dies after visa, health care woes.

Byline: Jhong de la Cruz

He was my hero. He was our hero, Clarisa Aquino said of her late husband, who died on March 11 from a heart attack after being beset by visa and health insurance problems.

Marvin Aquino, 46 years old, was recovering at home when the cardiac arrest occurred late at night on March 11. Clarisa recalls how he was extra-thoughtful that night, expressing how much he loved his wife and his family.

He was revived at Misericordia Hospital but later succumbed to the attack. Following his death, something nagged in the back of Clarisa's mind.

She wondered if she had fought for him to remain longer at Misericordia Hospital's coronary care unit a week before would have saved his life.

No coverage

Marvin, a native of Bulacan province, was on a visitor's visa in Canada when he suffered from an initial cardiac arrest on March 3.

He was sent to Misericordia Hospital in Edmonton City where the family lives. He needed an angioplasty with stent to open a blocked artery in his heart. This was performed at the University of Alberta Hospital on the same day.

He was transferred back to Misericordia Hospital and monitored in this hospital's coronary care unit under the care of his attending physician.

On March 4, the staff learned that Marvin had an expired health care card. They advised Clarisa that Marvin would be discharged home, following normal electrocardiogram (ECG) and cardiac ultrasound results, to cut the couple's hospital expenses, which accumulated to approximately $20,000 on his second day.

Marvin had health care coverage before April 2015 as a temporary foreign worker. However, the 4-in, 4-out rule that was implemented that year left him without coverage when his employer could not renew his work permit as he had been working in Canada for four years.

Clarisa asked the facility to delay his discharge so she could try to include him under her coverage, which she managed to do that afternoon of March 4.

When she returned to the hospital, Marvin had already been discharged. He was waiting at the visitor's area upon her arrival, slumped and appeared to be in pain.

Care plan

Misericordia Hospital is one of the 18 hospitals operated by Covenant Health, Canada's largest Catholic health care organization.

In an emailed statement to, Rayne Kuntz, spokesman for the hospital said, We are sorry for this family's loss and understand they must be going through tremendous grief.

Asked what routine care the facility follows for patients following an angioplasty, he said, Covenant Health treats each patient as an individual and their care plan is developed based on individual needs.

The family is welcome to participate in the hospital's patient concerns process, he added.

He was weak, short of breath and in pain most of the time, said Clarisa, describing her husband's recovery at home. In the days that followed, Marvin pushed forward in his recovery. The smallest of tasks would exhaust him.

I had to help brush his teeth, bathe him and dress him, she said. In two occasions, the couple noticed small amounts of blood coming from his mouth. I asked if he wanted to go see a doctor, he said not to worry and that he is fine, she said.

A Filipina nurse who works at the hospital often visited, worried about his condition, Clarisa said. The nurse even offered her home to the family, just so she could monitor his progress after his operation.

She told us that with heart attacks, they typically would observe them for 3-4 days, Clarisa added.


For 14 years, Marvin was chief cook for a cruise ship, spending most of his life aboard the ship. When the couple counted all the years they were together physically, it only amounted to two years.

I told him by going to Canada, we could have a chance to be together as a family, said Clarisa.

In July 2010, Marvin arrived in Canada and began his work as a kitchen helper for Edo Japan, a fast food restaurant in Sherwood Park, Alberta. Because of irregularities at work, he transferred to PDG Hospitality Corp., a food service provider for care homes, as a line cook in October 2011.

In 2012, Clarisa followed him to Canada under espousal visa. A year later, they were reunited with their three children, ages 18,19 and 22, who came with student visas.

That was his dream, for our family to be together and eventually become permanent residents, said Clarisa.

Marvin's application for permanent status through the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program (AINP) in November 2014 was battered by changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program until his worker's status lapsed and his four-years in Canada was up by April 2015.

Because the family had been together in Canada, he decided to stay on a tourist visa until a better opportunity came up.

Selling recyclables

Marvin's principles were steadfast through the difficult times, Clarisa said.

He did not accept any under-the-table jobs when he was unemployed, she said. Instead, they went around picking up recyclable bottles for money. Clarisa also worked as a live-in caregiver.

Often we would laugh, because even without money, we were able to eat four times a day, she said.

She herself has been fighting a battle against pelvic cancer since December 2014. She has undergone a battery of treatments including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

Although she was declared cancer free in March 2015, further monitoring revealed two new tumors. She will undergo treatment this April in order to shrink the cancer cells.

Clarisa knew her husband had suffered from stress, anxiety and depression. He felt like he could not take care of his family because although I was going through a lot of pain because of my cancer, I was still the breadwinnerhe felt paralyzed, she said.

The couple sought the help of an agent who promised Marvin permanent status in the province of Saskatchewan through that province's immigrant nominee program. All of the couple's savings had been used to pay the agent.


Fil-Canadian Victoria Ewert, owner of an immigration consulting agency in Edmonton, helped Marvin find another job when he was having troubles with his employer in 2011.

He is a very good cook and hardworking. He told me [about] his internal problems at the [current] work place because of professional jealousy, but I told him not to pay attention to those petty jealousies and just do his job, she said.

Ewert, who has been in the immigration consulting business since 2011, opined, TFWs should be treated fairly and not send them home after four years as [if they] are thrown like a rug after being used. The Canadian government should protect their rights and should give some leeway on their health care, Ewert added.

Another hurdle facing the family is their expiring temporary resident status in June. Clarisa's live-in caregiver work permit is for no extension as ordered by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

Clarisa will be applying for permanent status based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

On the night before his death, Marvin asked Clarisa what fate awaits their family in Canada. She replied, God is good. He will look after us. We will achieve your dreams for us together.

Marvin's last wishes included bringing his remains home to his province in Bulacan. Clarisa's brother had paid a portion of the repatriation but some $6,000 is still needed to send his remains.
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Mar 31, 2016
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