New report says ‘inequitable access’ to healthcare services in B.C. for Indigenous peoples

New report says 'inequitable access' to healthcare services in B.C. for Indigenous peoples

In a final report regarding racism within B.C.’s healthcare system, findings state that Indigenous peoples have “inequitable access” to preventative and primary health-care services, which perpetuates poorer health outcomes for First Nations, Métis and Inuit populations across the province.

Following up an initial review released in November 2020, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond – an independent reviewer commissioned by the Province – released a final comprehensive data report on Thursday that further highlighted complications for the Indigenous community created by racism within the system.

“Our extensive review of data reveals a system that does not provide Indigenous peoples with sufficient and safe access to primary and preventative care, and is therefore skewed towards emergency and specialized treatment,” Turpel-Lafond said. “Indigenous peoples have substantially less access to physician services and less attachment to primary care practitioners.

Turpel-Lafond says that a “full continuum of care and networks of First Nations-led primary care” are needed to help improve the “serious deficiencies” found facing Indigenous peoples within the current system.

The report released last November, titled In Plain Sight, offered 24 recommendations that aimed at eliminating Indigenous-specific racism within the system, making healthcare more effective in B.C.

Thursday’s report built off the initial review, presenting a baseline measurement of how the system is performing for Indigenous peoples. Turpel-Lafond emphasized during a live press conference that Thursday’s report contained detailed breakdowns of the data, including by region.

The report indicated that survey respondents in the Vancouver Island authority, along with the Northern authority, were more likely to report having been discriminated against on the basis of their ancestry or origins.

“Racism is toxic for people, and it is toxic for care,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “The situation as it exists, and as is depicted in the details of this report, cannot stand. I am very grateful to Dr. Turpel-Lafond and her team, and to every person who took part in this review. Your work, courage and commitment have provided a roadmap for meaningful change. Together with Indigenous leadership, health professionals, colleagues and partners, we will address systemic racism in our health-care system and root out its deeply damaging effects.”

Today’s data report looks more comprehensively at the results of surveys of Indigenous peoples using the healthcare system, which was conducted prior to November’s initial release.

The data report also looks at submitted responses from healthcare workers in B.C. as well as individual submissions detailing experiences of racism in healthcare.

Turpel-Lafond says the information represents the perspectives of nearly 9,000 people.

Data examining priority issues, such as the two current public health emergencies and mental health and wellness are included, as are data regarding patient complaints and comments from participants in San’yas Indigenous Cultural Safety training.

“This data report is extremely important in its own right,” Turpel-Lafond said. “In addition to supplementing our previous reports, it serves as a stand-alone comment on health-system performance for Indigenous peoples in B.C. And it shows there is a great deal of room for improvement.”

Turpel-Lafond concludes that this data report offers “further evidence” in support of the findings and recommendations outlined back in November.

The Province believes that these reports “clearly demonstrate the need for immediate, principled and comprehensive efforts to eliminate all forms of prejudice and discrimination against Indigenous peoples in B.C.’s health-care system and increase access to culturally safe primary and preventative services.”

Additional information for the Task Team, led by associate deputy minister of health Dawn Thomas, is provided in the data report.

Recommendations called for the establishment of an office of the Indigenous health representative and advocate, as well as improvements to complaints processes. The new representative and advocate positions will receive concerns from people about Indigenous-specific racism in the health-care sector.

While the work to establish this office is underway, B.C.’s ombudsperson has agreed to the review’s suggestion that, in the interim, the ombudsperson assume management of the toll-free phone and email submission options offered to the public by the review. Turpel-Lafond will continue to be available to provide support on this issue.

Indigenous people wanting to share their experiences of racism and discrimination in the B.C. health-care system may still do so by toll-free phone at 1 888 600-3078 or email at:

The full data report can be found online here.


Graham CoxGraham Cox

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