B.C. AFN chief wants medical staff involved in 'heinous' hospital 'game' identified
UBCIC secretary-treasurer says investigation will likely reveal more racism in health care system
Doctors and nurses involved in a "game" guessing the blood-alcohol level of Indigenous emergency room patients need to be identified at the conclusion of an B.C. government investigation, says the Assembly of First Nations regional chief for the province.
Terry Teegee said he was frustrated and a "little overwhelmed" by the news of the existence of the "game" Friday.
Métis Nation British Columbia told CBC News the "game" was called The Price is Right, and that doctors and nurses try to guess the blood-alcohol level of an Indigenous patient as closely as they can, without going over. A health-care worker recently told leaders about it during cultural safety training.
"What I would like to see… is to know what areas in the province, which health system, whether it is coastal or interior, northern, whatever health region, where these doctors are and naming these doctors," said Teegee.
"People want to know and people need to know this heinous act is happening."
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix announced Friday he had asked former judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, who is also the province's former children's advocate, to investigate the allegations.
"The allegations are serious and require a full and complete investigation. I intend to conduct such an investigation independent and complete, while fair to all," said Turpel-Lafond, in an emailed statement.
Chief Judy Wilson, secretary-treasurer of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), said the last few weeks have revealed in stark detail the racism that still exists in Canada.
"Now it's in our health institutions, our hospitals, this systemic racism," said Wilson.
"It's totally atrocious and unacceptable in a hospital setting that serves the public."
Wilson said the investigation by Turpel-Lafond will likely reveal more racism in the health care system.
"This is probably the [tip of the] iceberg of many more things they will find and we have to be able to face them and we will have to be able to change them," said Wilson.
First Nations Health Authority CEO Richard Jock said he heard about the issue on Wednesday night in a conversation with the Provincial Health Services Authority which was seeking support on finding a way to deal with the situation.
"I am really appreciative for there being rapid action taken," said Jock, whose organization delivers health services to all First Nations in the province.
"Maybe this is an opportunity to shine a spotlight for the need for cultural safety and humility throughout the system."
In an emailed statement, AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde called news of the "game" "sadly predictable" and that it violated the oath taken by doctors and medical professionals to do no harm.
"All people deserve to be treated with dignity. Alcoholism is a disease with tragic consequences," said the statement.
"It is hurtful, immature and more than anything else, shows a sense of apathy from those who are supposed to care."
Independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould, a former federal justice minister who represents a Vancouver riding, said in an emailed statement she was disheartened to hear of the "horrible allegations." Wilson-Raybould said she was hopeful Turpel-Lafond's investigation would lead to "transformative recommendations" to deal with racism in the health care system.
"I often have asked myself when the day will come that I am no longer surprised by hearing such hurtful acts. Such a day cannot come soon enough," said the statement.
"This is yet another of many events in recent weeks that reinforce the need for urgent change and real action in response to systemic racism."
Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said in an emailed statement said her government supported B.C.'s efforts to ensure a thorough investigation.
"The events described are appalling," said Hajdu, in the statement.
"People deserve answers on how a health care system allows this to happen and more than that, what immediate steps can be taken to ensure that it doesn't happen again."