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Posted: August 8, 2020

Survey asks health-care workers about racism, discrimination

Health-care workers throughout British Columbia are asked to share their experiences with racism and discrimination in the health-care system as part of a new survey launched by Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond on Friday, July 31.

The health-care workers’ survey asks respondents about the impact of discriminatory behaviours or actions on patients and their family members, as well as whether (and in what ways) health-care workers are affected by these matters personally in the workplace. The survey is part of Addressing Racism: An Independent Investigation into Indigenous-specific Racism in B.C. Health Care, that Turpel-Lafond is leading.

“To get a full picture of the impact of racism in the health-care system, it is very important to specifically seek the views of health-care workers,” Turpel-Lafond said. “Many have already made submissions to the investigation through email, our toll-free phone line and interviews with our investigators. This survey provides one more opportunity.”

On July 9, the investigation team launched a survey of Indigenous peoples in B.C., asking for their experiences accessing the health-care system. A toll-free number, website and email address were also provided. Through those channels combined, the investigation has received more than 3,000 submissions.

The health-care workers’ survey asks for the experiences of a wide range of providers – from physicians, nurses, paramedics and health-sciences professionals, to clerks, cleaning staff and food-services employees. Health-care workers can access the survey here.

The health-care workers’ survey has received strong support from a number of professional regulatory bodies and unions, which are promoting and sharing the survey broadly amongst their members.

“I encourage everybody who works in the B.C. health-care system to take part in the survey,” Turpel-Lafond said. “It’s important that this investigation collect as much information from as many knowledgeable sources as possible.”

Dr. Heidi M. Oetter, registrar and CEO, College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC said, “Physicians are leaders in emergency rooms, providing direction and caring for patients when they are in their most vulnerable state. Given their position and role, they have a critical perspective to share during Ms. Turpel-Lafond’s investigation into the allegations of racism. This is a time for all people who work in our health-care system to listen, learn and do their part to address systemic discrimination against Indigenous patients. The college extends its full support to the investigation and will encourage all registrants to participate in the survey.”

Cynthia Johansen, registrar and CEO, BC College of Nursing Professionals, and chair, BC Health Regulators Group added: “Nurses are the largest group of regulated health professionals in the province and have an important perspective to share with this independent investigation into Indigenous-specific discrimination in B.C.’s health-care system. This is our opportunity as health professionals, and as a province, to truly begin addressing the root of the historical injustices that persist in our health-care system. I encourage all nurses to complete the survey and share their voices.”

“We encourage all of our members to participate in this important survey that aims to provide a full picture of the extent to which racism and discrimination are present in B.C.’s health-care system. We support the independent investigation led by Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond and we are confident nurses from across the province will assist in any way they can,” said Christine Sorensen, president, BC Nurses’ Union.

Jennifer Whiteside, secretary-business manager, Hospital Employees’ Union noted, “Our health-care system must be a place of compassion, comfort and care for all who need it. Those of us who work within this system have a responsibility to root out racist and discriminatory behaviour directed at Indigenous peoples when we witness it and to recognize our own biases and address them. We strongly encourage health-care workers to share their experiences with the Addressing Racism investigation by taking part in this survey.”

“It’s in all of our best interests that as many doctors as possible complete the survey so we can better understand the depth of racism in our health-care system – how it has impacted Indigenous patients and how discriminatory practices affect the well-being of health-care workers themselves, including doctors,” said Dr. Kathleen Ross, president, Doctors of BC.

“The allegations of discriminatory actions by some medical staff towards Indigenous patients must be investigated – there is no place for it in our communities, in our profession, or within the health-care system. Doctors of BC is committed to working with all partners in support of this process to address systemic racism and to create an environment that is respectful, inclusive and culturally safe.”

The health-care workers’ survey will remain open until Aug. 27.

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