Some Indigenous people across B.C. have voiced concerns about accessibility to over-the-counter medication through a survey released Tuesday.
The survey was completed over two years by a Victoria organization called the Coastal Research, Education, & Advocacy Network (CREAN).
Survey results showed 74 per cent of Indigenous people who went to a pharmacy had to pay out of pocket for over-the-counter medication instead of it being covered by an existing insurance program.
For Indigenous people in Canada, these medications can be covered by insurance programs such as Non-Insured Health Benefits, or the First Nations Health Benefits Plan Wellness in B.C.
Sarah Ravenbergen, CREAN’s research manager, helped put the survey together to better show the challenges that Indigenous people face within the health care system.
She says there is a lack of education for people working in the health-care system and those who use it.
“From a pharmacist perspective, it was more of a lack of information that’s the issue where Indigenous participants talked about, you know, even if they knew about the program, there still kind of a host of other barriers that could prevent them from accessing that coverage,” said Ravenbergen.
She adds she would like to see Pharmacists go through more rigorous cultural sensitivity training.
The B.C. Pharmacy Association told CHEK News it’s been working with the First Nations Health Authority for years to develop training for culturally safe care while acknowledging there’s always more work to be done.
Experts like Paul Sam from the First Nations Health Council know that there are many financial challenges for Indigenous people within the health-care system.
“They can’t afford it, you know. A lot of our families are living at the poverty line or below, so cost is the main barrier,” said Sam.
Some of the key findings of the survey are that Indigenous participants often experience racism and discrimination when going to the pharmacy.
Pharmacists and Indigenous people agree there are challenges coordinating with doctors for the program, as well as a lack of awareness. Pharmacists who did the survey also added they have concerns about providing the coverage due to a fear of being audited.