Last night, B.C. Minister of Health Adrian Dix was made aware of a disturbing racist game being played by health care workers in an emergency room at one or more health care facilities in the province.
While remaining tight lipped about where these allegations came to light, Dix announced that he has hired lawyer Mary-Ellen Turpel Lafond to investigate reports that health care workers have been playing a game to guess the blood alcohol level of patients in the emergency room, in particular of Indigenous patients.
“If true, it is intolerable, unacceptable, and racist,” said Dix at the impromptu press briefing on Friday morning.
“I will also be reaching out to Indigenous leaders in health care… as we address the fundamental issues that are involved.”
The allegations were brought to Dix’s attention by Deputy Minister of Health Steven Brown who in turn received the information from members of the community.
At this time it is unclear which health region these “games” where being played at, whether it was at more than one emergency room, and how many health care workers were involved.
Dix says none of this information will be made public until Turpel Lafond has had time to conduct an investigation into the issue.
In the mean time, there have been no repercussions for any health care worker allegedly involved in these incidents.
Minister Dix acknowledged that these allegations are not the first of their kind and are indicative of a broader issue of systemic racism that exists within the health care system in B.C. and across Canada.
“We’ve got work to do, and when cases arise we consistently take on that work but the circumstances of this case require both an establishment of fact and action. And action will follow,” said Dix.
“It tells us that systemic racism has not just a existed but exists in our country and has impacts in all walks of life.”
There is currently no timeline for when the investigation is expected to be completed.
“No one should fear discrimination when they need help the most,” said Premier John Horgan in a statement responding to the allegations.
“No one should worry that when they visit a hospital that they will be prejudged and given a lower standard of care. If confirmed, this is a heartbreaking example of systemic racism in our province.”
Once the situation came to light, Métis Nation BC issued a statement calling on the province to address ongoing systemic racism in the health care system.
Thousands of Indigenous people seeking medical care face racism of this nature on a regular basis, based on findings from participants of the San’yas Indigenous Cultural Safety Training program.
Métis Nation BC says these allegations were brought to light by a participant of the San’yas program—an anti-racism training program that has been made mandatory for public servants in Ontario but not in B.C.
Premier Horgan has promised the Ministry of Health his “full support” in their investigation of these racist practices.
There has been no response yet from government on the Métis Nation’s recommendations.