Haida Gwaii physicians have issued a statement following the launch of an investigation 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.
In a joint statement on National Indigenous Peoples Day (June 21), the doctors said they were “dismayed” by the report from Health Minister Adrian Dix that described “a serious example of systemic racism in our health care system.”
“As your doctors, we feel angry and also ashamed that such damaging attitudes and behaviours exist in our profession, despite our spoken commitments to provide care with compassion and respect,” the statement said, adding that the acts of racism reported by Dix damage trust.
“While we feel disheartened, we as physicians must also see this as an opportunity for humility and growth. It is another chance for those of us who have been sheltered from racism to realize the magnitude of the problem and shock us into action.”
The doctors acknowledged that, while it can be easy for health care providers to distance themselves from blatant acts of racism, it is also possible to contribute to the persistence of systemic racism through ignorance and inaction, such as not taking the time to learn the history that has led to current injustices, not uncovering the root causes of suffering and addiction, or remaining silent.
“May this most recent example of systemic racism awaken and deepen our sense of shared humanity,” the statement continued.
The doctors ended with a quote from American political activist and philosopher Angela Davis: “I’m no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I’m changing the things I cannot accept.”
Dix had announced the launch of the investigation at a news conference on June 19.
“Last night I was made aware of racist practices in emergency room or rooms,” he told reporters.
“If true, it is intolerable, unacceptable and racist.”
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has been appointed by the province to look into the allegations.
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.”
Horgan 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.”
— With files from Ashley Wadhwani
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