A lack of family physicians in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area is worsening. (Pixabay photo)

A lack of family physicians in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area is worsening. (Pixabay photo)

Indigenous patients face higher risk of death post-surgery, study suggests

The data also showed Indigenous patients were less likely to undergo surgeries

Indigenous surgery patients are nearly a third more likely to die after their procedures than other populations in Canada and face higher risks of complications, new research suggests as doctors warn these inequities could worsen with the COVID-19 crisis.

The Canadian Medical Association Journal published a systemic review on Monday consisting of 28 separate studies. The research involved roughly 1.9 million participants — about 10 per cent of whom identified as Indigenous — to assess the surgical outcomes for Indigenous patients in Canada across a range of procedures.

Lead author Dr. Jason McVicar said the findings underscore the need for the First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities to lead a data-informed overhaul of health care, particularly as the pandemic raises concerns that Indigenous patients will fall behind in the mounting backlog of surgeries.

“This study tells Canadians two things: that we need better data, and the data that we have tells us that we need to do better,” said McVicar, a Métis anesthesiologist at The Ottawa Hospital.

Researchers found Indigenous Peoples face a 30 per cent higher death rate after surgery compared to non-Indigenous patients, according to data from four studies with a combined 7,135 participants.

The authors also analyzed literature indicating that Indigenous patients suffered higher rates of surgical complications, including post-operative infections and readmissions to hospital.

The data also showed Indigenous patients were less likely to undergo surgeries aimed at improving quality of life, such as joint replacements, as well as potentially life-saving procedures including cardiac surgery, transplants and caesarean sections.

McVicar said the findings were limited by the scant and poor quality research available, noting that none of the data specifically pertained to Inuit and Métis communities.

He called for a national strategy to measure and address the disparities in surgical outcomes for Indigenous Peoples. But for such an effort to work, McVicar argued it should be led by the First Nations, Inuit and Métis health workers, researchers and organizers who are best equipped to meet the needs of their communities.

“The Canadian health-care system is currently getting the outcomes it is designed to get. It is based on a highly colonial structure,” he said. “If we are honest about transformative change in terms of improving outcomes for First Nations, Inuit and Métis people, then we need to address change at every level in the system.”

The issue is all the more urgent in light of the COVID-19 pandemic’s disproportionate impact on Indigenous communities, said McVicar, adding such inequities could ripple through the medical system for years to come if Indigenous patients aren’t prioritized for treatment amid a growing backlog of postponed surgeries. In Ontario alone, that number stretches into the hundreds of thousands.

“When we go back to address that backlog, we know that those with the political agency to strongly advocate for themselves will inevitably get to the front of the line,” McVicar said. ”This again will disproportionately impact First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities.”

The research comes amid a national reckoning over anti-Indigenous racism in the health-care system after Joyce Echaquan, a 37-year-old Atikamekw woman, died last September in a Joliette, Que., hospital after filming staff making derogatory comments about her.

The widely shared video prompted the federal government to host a two-day summit to discuss systemic racism against Indigenous Peoples in health care. A Quebec coroner’s inquest into Echaquan’s death got underway last week.

Dr. Alika Lafontaine, an Indigenous health advocate and incoming president of the Canadian Medical Association, said Monday’s research represents the tip of the iceberg in unpacking the layers of discrimination against Indigenous patients.

“The pandemic has revealed a lot of things that those of us who treat high proportions of Indigenous patients in our practices, or are Indigenous ourselves, have appreciated for years,” said Lafontaine, an anesthesiologist in Grande Prairie, Alta.

“It’s a big problem that we haven’t spent a lot of time studying, and even less time trying to solve.”

As the COVID-19 crisis has laid bare the life-threatening consequences of medical racism, Lafontaine said it has also provided an opportunity to implement the sweeping changes needed to ensure all Canadians have access to first-class health care.

“This research becomes so much more important, because it identifies the people and the populations that we haven’t designed the system around, so we can build a better system after,” he said. “That’s the real promise, I think, of a post-pandemic health-care system.”

READ MORE: Anti-Indigenous racism embedded in B.C. healthcare system: report

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Indigenous

Just Posted

Steve Mann and Tim Hackett consider Marigold Lands their finest development. (Rendering courtesy Marigold Lands)
Marigold residences grow more townhouses and condos in Central Saanich

50 condos, 14 townhouses up next for project adjacent to Pat Bay Highway

The Pool at the Esquimalt Rec Centre. (Courtesy of theTownship of Esquimalt/ Facebook)
Esquimalt Rec Centre restarting everyone welcome swim times later this month

The 90-minute sessions will be on select evenings and weekends

Norman Mogensen sets up strings for his beans in his plot in the Oak Bay community gardens. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)
Oak Bay gardener spends decades cultivating, improving daddy’s beans

85-year-old vegan part of the community gardens scene

Theatre SKAM is offering mobile, pop-up performances to Greater Victoria residents once again this summer. They’ll feature emerging artists Yasmin D’Oshun, Courtney Crawford, Kaelan Bain and Kendra Bidwell (left to right). (Courtesy of Theatre SKAM)
Theatre performances can be ordered to Greater Victoria front yards this summer

Theatre SKAM offering mobile, pop-up performances once again

Diana Durrand and Arlene Nesbitt celebrate the new artist space in 2014. Gage Gallery moves this summer from Oak Bay to Bastion Square in Victoria. (Black Press Media file photo)
Gage Gallery moving to Bastion Square

Vivid Connections, a showcase by Laura Feeleus and Elizabeth Carefoot, opens new venue June 29

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Patrick O’Brien, a 75-year-old fisherman, went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search for lost fisherman near Victoria suspended, U.S. Coast Guard says

The 75-year-old man was reported missing Thursday evening

Most Read