The B.C. government apologizes for systemic racism towards Indigenous people in B.C.’s health care system

The B.C. government has apologized for widespread occurrences of racism towards Indigenous people in BC’s health care system.

The apology comes after a months-long investigation found wide-spread racism in the health care system including fear from Indigenous people to access hospitals due to racism.

The investigation was brought forward to examine allegations of nurses and doctors guessing the blood alcohol level of Indigenous patients and perhaps others. Those claims were found to be “unsubstantiated.”

Read more: B.C. health workers allegedly bet on Indigenous patients’ blood alcohol levels

“Racism is toxic for people and it is toxic for care. I want to make an unequivocal apology as the Minister of Health to those who have experienced racism in accessing health care services now and in the past,” Minister of Health Adrian Dix said.

“Hospital and clinics must be places of trust and comfort. My apology today is an acknowledgement of the pain Indigenous people have born from racism.”

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.

Read more: Investigator probing racism allegations in B.C. health-care system urges Indigenous people to come forward

But the report did discover the much larger problem of racism and fear from Indigenous people due to the treatment within the the health care system.

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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Investigation into racism allegations in B.C. hospitals ‘not about blaming and shaming’: Turpel-Lafond – Jul 9, 2020

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.

Thirteen per cent of health care workers made racist comments in the survey.

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Allegations of racist game played by emergency room staff – Jun 20, 2020

“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.

Click to play video 'Update on investigation into racist ‘game’ at healthcare facilities' 2:01 Update on investigation into racist ‘game’ at healthcare facilities

Update on investigation into racist ‘game’ at healthcare facilities – Jul 9, 2020

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.

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.

— With files from The Canadian Press

–More to come

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

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