An investigation has been launched by the ministry of health into allegations of emergency room doctors and nurses “playing a game guessing the blood alcohol level of Indigenous patients” and possibly others.
“Last night I was made aware of racist practices in emergency room or rooms,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said during a news conference Friday (June 19).
“If true, it is intolerable, unacceptable and racist.”
Black Press Media has learned that the “game” played by hospital staff was akin to the TV show Price is Right.
Dix announced Friday that Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has been appointed by the province to look into the allegations.
When pressed by several reporters, the health minister would not divulge information surrounding any particular hospital or health authority, citing the investigation.
In a separate statement, Premier John Horgan said he was “outraged by reports of ugly, anti-Indigenous, racist behaviour at multiple health-care facilities in B.C.”
He went on to pledge that the allegations will not be swept aside.
“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,” he said.
“If confirmed, this is a heartbreaking example of systemic racism in our province.”
Advocates have been sounding the alarms on discrimination against Indigenous people in Canada’s healthcare system for decades. This includes First Nation, Metis and Inuit patients being turned away for medical care because they are assumed to be intoxicated by health staff across the province, according to the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres and Metis Nation BC.
“There remains a lack of will to address systemic and specific racism towards Métis, First Nation and Inuit people,” said Leslie Varley, BCAAFC executive director.
“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.”
The two groups are calling for a public inquiry in Indigenous-specific racism in B.C.’s healthcare system, ensuring proper training for all frontline staff, and ensure Indigenous governments play a stronger role in implementing anti-racism programs provincially.
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