Allegation of racist emergency room guessing game 'beyond unacceptable': B.C. minister
VANCOUVER -- B.C.'s health minister says it was alleged that a racist guessing game was being played in emergency rooms in the province.
Speaking Friday, Minister Adrian Dix said the allegation is that health-care workers were guessing the blood-alcohol levels of patients – "in particular Indigenous people, and perhaps others.
"If true, it is intolerable, unacceptable, and racist."
The alleged guessing game would certainly have had an impact on the quality of care the patients received, Dix said.
Dix has appointed Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond to investigate the allegations. Turpel-Lafond previously served as B.C.’s representative for children and youth.
In an emailed statement, Turpel-Lafond said she takes the incident "very seriously and will conduct an independent and urgent review of the matter."
In a statement, the Métis Nation British Columbia and BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres said information about the game had come to light during a recent cultural training session.
“Participants within the San’yas Indigenous Cultural Safety Training program detail thousands of cases of racism in health care, resulting in the harm of Indigenous patients," the organizations said in a statement.
“In a recent training session, a program participant disclosed a common game played within B.C. hospital emergency rooms, where physicians, nurses and other staff try to guess the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of Indigenous patients. The winner of the game guesses closest to the BAC - without going over.”
Métis Nation B.C. said the province has lagged behind Ontario in implementing anti-racism training for health workers.
While Ontario made such training mandatory for every employee in the Ontario Public Service in 2016, “B.C. Health Authorities are inconsistent in their requirements for anti-racism training despite evidence that racism is prevalent within health systems,” the Métis Nation said in its statement.
“First Nations, Métis and Inuit patients seeking emergency medical services in British Columbia are often assumed to be intoxicated and denied medical assessments, contributing to worsening health conditions resulting in unnecessary harm or death,” the organization said.
Dix did not identify the hospital or health authority allegedly involved, but indicated the game may have been played at multiple emergency rooms.
Dix said he first heard the allegation from Deputy Health Minister Steve Brown who received information about the alleged guessing game from both the community and “inside the system.”
No nurses or doctors have yet been suspended or fired, Dix said, saying he only learned of the allegation Thursday night and government plans to do a thorough investigation.
First Nations people in B.C. have a long history of experiencing racism in the health-care system, Dix said, and the allegations are one more example that racist attitudes persists and need to be addressed.
“I have, since becoming minister of health, regularly met with First Nations communities around B.C. and issues like this have been raised repeatedly,” he said.
Métis Nation B.C. and the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres are calling on the provincial government to hold a public inquiry into “Indigenous specific racism in health care in B.C with a focus on hospitals and emergency departments” and require all front-line staff to take First Nations, Métis and Inuit training.
The organizations also want to see a commitment from the government to look at deep structural changes that need to be made to the health care system to dismantle racism, and are calling for the involvement of Indigenous governments in the development and implementation of anti-racism training throughout the province.