B.C. investigates reports of health workers betting on Indigenous patients’ blood alcohol levels

1 year ago 64
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The province is investigating reports of health-care staff playing a racist game betting on the blood alcohol level of mainly Indigenous patients they were treating, according to Health Minister Adrian Dix.

“The allegation is that a game was being played to investigate the blood alcohol level of patients in the emergency rooms, in particular with Indigenous people and perhaps others. And if true, it is intolerable and racist and of course (has) affected profoundly patient care,” Dix told reporters at a news conference in Vancouver on Friday morning.

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Former Representative for Children and Youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond to lead the investigation that will start Monday, he said.

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“She has to access the facts and take the time she needs to assemble those and make recommendations. I obviously believe there is urgency here and that is why we have acted in this way,” Dix said.

There are no details yet on how widespread the game is, how many nurses and doctors were involved, and where it was taking place.

Dix said he learned of the “abhorrent” allegations the night before, and that no nurses or doctors have been disciplined as of yet.

Premier John Horgan says he is outraged by ‘reports of ugly, anti-Indigenous, racist behaviour at multiple health-care facilities in B.C.’

Horgan says the behaviour described in the allegations degrades the standards of health care workers in the province.

“It cannot stand. There is no excuse. There is no explaining this away,” Horgan said.

“No one should fear discrimination when they need help the most. No one should worry that when they visit a hospital that they will be prejudged and given a lower standard of care. If confirmed, this is a heartbreaking example of systemic racism in our province.”

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In a statement, Turpel-Lafond described the allegations as serious and that they require a ‘full and complete investigation’.

“I intend to conduct such an investigation independent and complete, while fair to all,” Turpel-Lafond said.

“I requested Government to provide me with the tools required to conduct the investigation. Minister Dix and his officials have assured me this will happen. I will sort those details out next week and make a more complete statement of the scope, focus and timeframe for the work.”

The Métis Nation BC and the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres said First Nations, Métis and Inuit patients seeking emergency care are often assumed to be intoxicated and denied medical assessments.

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In a press release, the organizations said participants within the San’yas Indigenous Cultural Safety Training program detail thousands of cases of racism in healthcare. In one case, a participant in a recent training session disclosed a “common game played within B.C. hospital emergency rooms.”

“There remains a lack of will to address systemic and specific racism towards Métis, First Nation and Inuit people,” said Leslie Varley, executive director of the Aboriginal Friendship Centres group.

“We know that our people avoid hospitals because we are afraid of having a discriminatory encounter. This happens to the point where Indigenous people end up in emergency with extreme diagnosis, like cancer.”

Both organizations are calling on the Ministry of Health to hold a public inquiry into Indigenous-specific racism in the B.C. health-care system, with a focus on hospitals and emergency rooms, and ensure all front-line staff are required to take mandatory cultural training.

“What is allegedly happening in B.C. hospitals to Métis, First Nations and Inuit peoples is deeply disturbing and must immediately come to an end,” said Daniel Fontaine, CEO of Métis Nation BC.

“We remain committed to work with Provincial Health Services Authority to increase Métis-specific content curriculum to increase the knowledge and understanding of healthcare providers.”

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