The Support Network for Indigenous Women and Women of Colour has written an open letter to Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, who is leading the investigation into racist games being played in emergency rooms across the province. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

Non-profit alleges Island Health not interested in holding people accountable for racist acts

Support Network for Indigenous Women and Women of Colour writes open letter to racism investigator

A Victoria-based non-profit has written an open letter to the lawyer investigating the allegations of hospital staff playing a blood-alcohol guessing game at the expense of Indigenous patients.

The Support Network for Indigenous Women and Women of Colour (SNIWWOC) says they have heard other allegations of racist behaviour. The letter also asserts that information from an anonymous source working within Island Health suggests that “the health authority is not interested in holding specific individuals accountable for racist behaviour.”

READ ALSO: MLA ‘devastated’ by claims of racist blood-alcohol ‘game’ at Saanich Peninsula Hospital

The SNIWWOC stated this sends a message that racism within health care can be “acknowledged, but continued without consequence,” along with implying the investigation is a “placating farce that will lead to no real sustainable changes.”

“We know that many Indigenous refuse to go to the hospital, even when they desperately need it. Federal health care services are supposed to be provided by the Indian Act and despite this, no list of First Nations doctors or nurses currently exists.”

READ ALSO: Survey, hotline launched amid probe into racist blood-alcohol guessing game

The letter describes a number of incidents their members have experienced, such as doctors repeatedly refusing to prescribe patients with pain medication after they’ve experienced bone fractures; nurses taking babies away for longer “ignoring the overwhelming evidence that skin-to-skin contact is beneficial for the mother and the baby;” and doctors yelling at moms for money or insurance coverage while still in active labour.

After hearing those stories, SNIWWOC created a Peer Support Program, where volunteers from the support network will accompany women to their health care appointments to provide “the safety and accountability of a third-party advocate.”

The letter goes on to say that they found comments about bystanders and participants in the racist blood-alcohol game being able to share their information “without recrimination from their workplace” to be “extremely troubling.”

The SNIWWOC is calling for increased transparency of incidents of racism in health care. They’re also asking for every health care worker to take anti-racism and implicit bais training, and acknowledge that the existing cultural safety program does not provide adequate services for non-Indigenous, racialized patients.

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