IPAC Recommends an Investigation for Institutional Racism in the Health Care System

    OTTAWA, April 23 /CNW Telbec/ - In Manitoba there have been three high
profile deaths in the past year in which access to or quality of health care
was raised as a possible contributing factor. These deaths included:

    - Brian Sinclair, a 45-year-old man who died of an infection, which
      spread from a blocked bladder catheter after waiting in the emergency
      room for 34 hours. An inquest is pending, and all parties including
      Premier Gary Doer have agreed that his death was preventable.
    - Chace Barkman, a 6 month old baby, died of meningitis with a six-day
      delay in receiving the correct diagnosis and obtaining appropriate care
      at the Garden Hill Health Centre considered a possible contributing
      factor to the death.
    - MayLynn Sanderson, a 34 year old female, died of a heart infection
      within 24 hours of being transferred from a correctional institution to
      a hospital. According to the Winnipeg Free Press Sanderson had
      previously been hospitalized for this condition, and had been
      requesting further treatment since February 9th. She wasn't transferred
      until April 5th and died on April 6th.

    The Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada (IPAC) does not have the
detailed clinical information or information about the experiences of care for
these patients and their families that would be required to determine whether
or not racism was a contributing factor in any of these three deaths. However,
the fact that all three of these people were First Nations requires that we
carefully consider this question. All three of these deaths should be formally
reviewed with the involvement of Indigenous health professionals who can lend
both expertise and a critical Indigenous perspective to the process.
    Further, the fact that there were three deaths of First Nations
individuals in which racism may have been a contributing factor should prompt
a systematic review for multilevel racism (i.e. institutional and
interpersonal) within the health care system.
    The anecdotal evidence suggests an intolerably high level of racism in
health care, and so does the formal evidence. While to date very little of
this research has been done in Canada, there is some evidence regarding racism
and Indigenous peoples in comparable countries. A recent report from Australia
showed that 93% of urban Aboriginal people experienced racism at least
sometimes in at least one setting, including 60% who experienced racism at
least sometimes in the justice system and 42% in a health care setting. The
Australian report states that the health inequalities of Indigenous people
will never be closed without aggressive campaigns against discrimination and
    The time for action is now, before more preventable deaths occur.
    IPAC is prepared to work with Manitoba Health and Healthy Living and any
other jurisdiction that is willing to ensure that the health care system is
fair and equally responsive to all whom it serves. In addition to an initial
systematic review for multilevel racism in the health care system, we need to
develop the ability to regularly monitor our institutions for the presence of
racism and take actions both to prevent it and to redress it through zero
tolerance policies.
    It is time for us to start upholding our rights to justice, to health,
and to freedom from discrimination for all people who live in Canada and to
turn the gaze from the victims of racism to the institutions that continue to
perpetuate it.

    Marcia Anderson, MD MPH FRCPC
    Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada

    Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada

    Our Vision:

    The vision we hold is healthy and vibrant Indigenous nations,
communities, families and individuals supported by an abundance of well
educated, well supported Indigenous physicians working together with others
who contribute to this vision with us.

    Our Mission:

    It is our collective intent as Indigenous people diversely rooted in our
ancestry (past and present) and our relationship with the natural world (our
homelands) who have also had the privilege of medical training and accept the
responsibility of working together to use our skills, abilities and
experiences to improve the health (broadly defined) of our nations,
communities, families and selves.

For further information:

For further information: Kandice Léonard, Executive Director, (204)
219-0099, info@ipac-amic.org

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