BC health minister apologizes following report on systemic racism in healthcare system

Dec 1 2020, 1:26 am

BC Health Minister Adrian Dix offered an “unequivocal apology,” on Monday, following the release of a report on systemic racism against Indigenous patients in the province’s healthcare systems.

The report found 84% of Indigenous patients have experienced some form of discrimination in BC’s healthcare system.

The staggering figures come after Dix ordered a review earlier this year following allegations that The Price Is Right-style games were being played by staff in BC hospitals to guess the blood-alcohol level of Indigenous patients.

The review was led by Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, who practises as senior associate counsel at Woodward and Company and is a member of Saskatchewan’s Muskeg Lake Cree Nation.  On Monday, Turpel-Lafond presented her findings, stating that she found no evidence to substantiate the allegation that the game was being played and that “if such games did occur in the past, they are not occurring today.”

However, “there are episodic, anecdotal reports that resemble these allegations, none could be described as prevalent, widespread or targeting only Indigenous patients,” she said.

As well, more than one-third of non-Indigenous healthcare workers reported that they personally witnessed racism or discrimination directed to Indigenous patients, and 52% of Indigenous healthcare workers reported experiencing racial prejudice at work – the majority in the form of discriminatory comments by colleagues.

“Indigenous people and healthcare workers have spoken clearly – racism is an ugly and undeniable problem in BC healthcare that must be urgently addressed,” said Turpel-Lafond.

“Racism is toxic for people, and it’s toxic f0r care,” said Dix on Monday. “I want to make an unequivocal apology as the Minister  of Health to those who have experienced racism in accessing health care services in British Columbia, now and in the past.”

His apology, he said, “is an acknowledgement of the pain that Indigenous people have borne from racism.”

However, “it is a first step [and] I will recommend to the premier to sit down immediately to work out our government’s response to meet the report’s first recommendations and set us on a path to healing.

In the meantime, Dix said he also wants to “sincerely thank all those who participated for reaching out to tell us of your experiences.”

Hospitals and clinics “must be places of trust and comfort, and all of us should have confidence that without a doubt we will receive the respectful care that we all deserve.”

Eric ZimmerEric Zimmer

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