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B.C. hospital where racist game allegedly played located on Vancouver Island: First Nations
Tsartlip First Nation Chief Don Tom says he wants the B.C. government to take immediate action to address systemic racism in the health-care system: (CTV News)
VICTORIA -- Several Vancouver Island First Nations say they are “saddened” and frustrated to learn that an alleged racist “game” that is being investigated by the B.C. government was happening in a Central Saanich hospital.
Last week, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said that an investigation had been launched after there were reports of health-care workers playing a racist game that involved guessing the blood-alcohol level of Indigenous patients who entered the emergency room.
According to the Tseycum and Tsartlip First Nations, the health-care workers were staff members at the Saanich Peninsula Hospital.
“We’re deeply hurt by what has been shared,” Tsartlip First Nation Chief Don Tom told CTV News.
“It’s a hospital that many young people were born at, it’s a hospital where we have memories of our loved ones being there,” he said. “But if you put in a barrier for receiving adequate and safe health services at a time like this, it’s troubling.”
While Tom commends Dix’s swift call for an investigation, the chief says he wants to see immediate steps taken.
“Real, tangible, timely change needs to happen and we’re not seeing that,” he said.
Tom says Island Health could take proactive steps to address systemic racism before the investigation is complete.
“They don’t have to wait for the recommendations from this investigation,” he said.
While Island Health has not confirmed which hospital the allegations took place in, it has said that it will not tolerate racist behaviour in any of its staff members.
“Island Health takes reports of this nature extremely seriously,” said Kathy MacNeil, president and CEO of Island Health in a statement Thursday.
“Racist behaviour in any B.C. health-care facility is unacceptable and violates our principles, policies and Island Health’s values of respect and empathy.”
MacNeil adds that Island Health is working with Indigenous members of the community to help shape policies moving forward.
“We are committed to an Indigenous-led response to ensure our actions are meaningful,” she said.
“Island Health will work with the three First Nations families on Vancouver Island, and look to Indigenous leaders for guidance and support to move forward together.”
If racism in B.C.’s health-care system is not addressed, Tom worries that Indigenous people may avoid health centres, even if they are in need of medical treatment, because of concerns of systemic racism in hospitals.
“All First Nations want to do is safely access health care,” he said.