The author of a report finding “widespread systemic racism against Indigenous people” identifies the Saanich Peninsula Hospital as a place where “significant change” has taken place in terms of relations between Indigenious and non-Indigenous people.
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond did not find evidence to substantiate allegations that staff in provincial hospital emergency departments played a game where staff guessed blood alcohol level of Indigenous patients and possibly others in “any organized, coordinated way.”
“But as I said, I did find episodic examples of guessing in some places,” she said, adding that some of those places have made efforts to stop the practice. She did not volunteer where these “episodic examples” happened.
When asked later whether the game happened at Saanich Peninsula Hospital, she repeated her earlier assessment that she did not find a coordinated system without directly commenting on the Peninsula hospital specifically.
“I do think though, [Saanich Peninsula Hospital] as one hospital, is a place where there has been significant work underway in the last number of months and I do check with the [local] First Nations leadership and they tell me that there has been some significant change in terms of the quality of service and the relationship-building. That is one of the unintended but important consequences of this review.”
The allegation of an organized guessing game was the starting point of Turpel-Lafond’s review that found “clear evidence of a much more widespread and insidious problem,” namely a “lack of cultural safety and hundreds of examples of prejudice and racism throughout the entire B.C. health care system.”
Health minister Adrian Dix later described described racism as “toxic to health” and used the public release of the report to issue a public apology. He announced several new personnel appointments as part of the process to implement the recommendations based on the findings of an extensive survey of the health care system. Almost 9,000 people participated in online and telephone surveys, including more than 2,700 Indigenous peoples and 5,400 health workers.
Ellen Turpel-Lafond said this finding of “widepsread systemtic racism” does not mean that every Indigenous person receiving health care experiences direct or indirect racism. “But it does mean that any Indigenous person could experience it – anywhere in the system,” she said.
The report finds that 84 per cent of Indigenous respondents reported some form of discrimination in the health care system and some 52 per cent of Indigenous health care workers reported personally experiencing racial prejudice at work, the majority being in the form of discriminatory comments by colleagues.
More than one-third of non-Indigenous health care workers personally witnessed racism or discrimination directed to Indigenous patients, according to the report, with 13 per cent of surveyed health care workers having made racist comments in the survey.
The report includes 24 recommendations. Taken together, they provide a blue print for dealing with racism in the health care system, said Turpel-Lafond, adding that all British Columbians bear responsibility in dealing with this “major problem” in British Columbia.
Turpel-Lafond said she is “confident” in her conclusion that “there isn’t an organized game” with prizes, noting she received full co-operation during her investigation.
Turpel-Lafond promised additional information with the release of another report next month.
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