Report finds racism in B.C. health-care system, but claims of ‘Price is Right’ game unproven

A months-long investigation has found allegations of nurses and doctors guessing the blood alcohol level of Indigenous patients and perhaps others were “unsubstantiated.”

Former children’s commissioner Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond was hired to investigate claims the so-called “Price is Right” game was being played in one B.C. hospital.

“The review found no evidence to substantiate the allegation that the ‘Price is Right’ game was being played in B.C. hospital emergency departments, and if such a game did occur in the past, they are not occurring today,” Turpel-Lafond writes.

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The investigation did find anecdotal reports similar to the original allegation but they were not found to be widespread nor targeted at Indigenous patients.

According to the report, medical professionals will often guess the blood alcohol level of various patients and could be “clinically appropriate.” But the review also found “extensive profiling of Indigenous patients” based on stereotypes.

Turpel-Lafond, also a former judge, collected and assessed the experiences of Indigenous, Metis and Inuit people when they access health care and found hundreds of examples of prejudice and racism.

“I did find widespread, direct racism towards Indigenous people in B.C. in the health-care system,” Turpel-Lafond said.

“It doesn’t mean every Indigenous person who gets health care will experience direct or indirect racism, but it does mean that any Indigenous person could experience it – anywhere in the system. We have a significant problem that must be urgently addressed.”

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There were 2,780 surveys were completed, detailing concerns about the health-care system. Nearly 5,000 surveys were submitted but many were not completed because the incidents described in the survey were found to be “triggering.”

According to the review, 84 per cent of Indigenous respondents reported some form of discrimination in health care.

Fifty-two per cent of Indigenous health-care workers reported experiencing racial prejudice at work.

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“I avoid the hospital at all costs because as an Indigenous person I feel unsafe and feel like they won’t bother treating me,” reads one of the submissions to the review.

The review found current education and training programs inadequate for those in the health-care system. There are concerns women and girls are disproportionally impacted and the complaints process for Indigenous peoples does not work.

Turpel-Lafond is putting forward 24 recommendations to government, including improving accountability, legislative changes, and an improved complaint process.

There are also recommendations focused on mandatory health professional education, better public education about Indigenous history and health, and a new School for Indigenous Medicine.

Turpel-Lafond is calling on Health Minister Adrian Dix to apologize to Indigenous people for the racism they have experienced in the health-care system.

Dix is expected to speak at 11 a.m. alongside Turpel-Lafond when the report is officially tabled.

“Some of the recommendations can be actioned immediately and some are going to take a little more time,” Turpel-Lafond said.

— With files from The Canadian Press

–More to come

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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