Island Health apologises for racism against Indigenous people at Saanich Peninsula Hospital

Island Health apologises for racism against Indigenous people at Saanich Peninsula Hospital
WatchThere is more reaction tonight to the report uncovering widespread racism in our health care system. First Nation communities near the Saanich hospital in the centre of allegations say it will take time and action to make a difference. Julian Kolsut reports.

Saanich Peninsula Hospital was at the centre of allegations of a racist game “Price is Right” game guessing blood alcohol levels of Indigenous patients.

On Tuesday, during a press conference from inside the hospital, Island health apologized for racism at the hospital and across the health authority.

“To all indigenous peoples we apologize and I apologize for our actions and inaction,” said Kathy MacNeil, Island Health CEO via Zoom.

“And to our staff, indigenous staff and our medical staff who have experienced racism and discrimination here in Island health and here at Saanich peninsula hospital, I apologize for that as well.”

A report lead by Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond released Monday said there was no formal game, but did find that there were but there were episodic anecdotal reports that resemble it across the province.

MacNeil said that in the report “there is no evidence of that game here at Saanich Peninsula.”

But Turpel-Lafond’s findings also uncovered widespread systemic racism in the province’s healthcare system targeting indigenous peoples.

It’s a problem no-one, including those from nearby Tsawout and Tsartlip First Nation are immune to.

“I remember visiting myself personally,” said Tsawout elected Chief Nick Claxton. “There is a history of heart problems in my family, and I was kind of concerned how my heart was feeling one day, and the doctor asked me right our if I was using cocaine and I have never done drugs and that was kind of hurtful, almost accusatory.”

“We’ve had a member who went in who suffered from a stroke and was continuously pressed if ‘have you been drinking, do you drink regularly’,” said Tsartlip elected Chief Don Tom.

There has been some progress since the allegations.

“Within Saanich Peninsula Hospital here, as well and throughout Vancouver Island hospitals, they have done some training on cultural safety.”

But there is still lots of work to be done.

“It’s in the news story today but four weeks from now it won’t be so hot, it’s important they do as much work as they can now because lives are at stake,” Tom added.

“I think about community members, elders that rely on that health-care system,” said Claxton.

“The real change will happen when the rubber meets the road and the changes are enacted.”

Multiple recommendations were made in the report and Island Health says it’s ready to make changes.

The health authority has already introduced cultural training and has created an aboriginal patient liaison.

Julian KolsutJulian Kolsut

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