Employees, union representatives, patients and health-care advocates tell Global News that little has changed since a report detailed problems of systemic racism at the MUHC became public 18 months ago.
Dawn Mc Nichols says she’s still in disbelief about how she says she was treated as a patient at the Royal Victoria Hospital after surgery in 2023. She says she was there for a week and was mistreated, had her rights violated by some staff and had to wait longer than necessary.
“I asked the nurse to help me put a pillow behind me,” she told Global News, citing one example. “She practically threw the pillow at me.”
All this happened, she points out, even though she’s a health-care worker at the same hospital. The patient attendant claims it’s the same way other racialized patients are treated by some medical staff — like being ignored, she explains.
“I know many times I had to say to the nurse, ‘I’m telling you for the third time, this patient has been asking for something for pain,’ ” she told Global News. “And it’s always a minority (person).”
Mc Nichols argues that since 2022 there is still racism and discrimination against patients and employees.
“They don’t have any respect for us as a minority and as a staff member,” she claimed. “There’s no respect.”
In 2022 she, along with other employees, patients and union representatives, told Global News about instances of discrimination, including harassment and assault. After several media reports about the problem the MUHC commissioned a study to look into the problem. The resulting report listed 10 recommendations. At the time, the MUHC told Global News that five had already been put in place.
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Report co-author Seeta Ramdas says she’s pleased that the MUHC is tackling the problem, but she still has concerns about what she sees as the slow pace of implementation of the recommendations.
“They’ve made some inroads, I think, in terms of trying to provide unconscious bias training and (equity, diversity and inclusion) training in different pockets across the institution,” she observed. “But what they really need to do is make it a standard practice so that everybody who works or volunteers in the institution must mandatorily take a workshop in EDI.”
She also stresses that an EDI office should be established where staff and or patients can report instances or discrimination.
“This has to be done to captured as data,” she noted, “so that the institution can refine the training that they need to provide in the context of equity, diversity and inclusion.”
Ramdass also believes that there should be a mechanism for people to anonymously report incidents of discrimination. Mc Nichols agrees.
“Because a lot of minorities don’t want to complain when they’re in the hospital because they end up being known as a complainer,” she pointed out.
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Ramdass also believes there are gaps related to ableism that the health institution needs to work on.
“Like making accessible bathrooms for people who are motor-challenged, making sure that there are spaces where persons who are encountering different types of disabilities can easily hear or see or gather information,”
One Indigenous rights groups says they also continue to hear stories of discrimination. Laura Aguiar, coordinator for Iskweu Project, which supports Indigenous women and their families, notes that many Indigenous people don’t trust the medical system because of decades of mistreatment.
“I think the big effect is that a lot of the times the women we work with just don’t seek medical care,” she told Global News. “We’re talking women with really chronic health conditions who live with injuries that are really significant.”
The problem as she sees it: often some of these women end up facing what she calls the “violence of racism” in the health care system. Aguiar thinks more cultural support is needed, something Ramdass also points out.
However, Aguiar credits the MUHC for taking steps to address some of the issues.
“We have some promising meetings coming up with different departments of the MUHC that would interact a lot with survivors of violence, so I think that’s a promising practice,” she admits.
In a statement, the MUHC says, “Since 2022 it has redoubled its efforts to promote inclusion diversity and equity in all spheres of activity. We also strive to raise awareness of the importance of EDI within the MUHC community through our training programs. In order to move ahead with the necessary expertise, we have requested funding from the MSSS to create an office dedicated to EDI.”
The statement did not say, however, how many of the 10 recommendations from the 2022 report have been implemented.
© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Felecia Phillips Ollie DD (h.c.) is the inspiring leader and founder of The Equality Network LLC (TEN). With a background in coaching, travel, and a career in news, Felecia brings a unique perspective to promoting diversity and inclusion. Holding a Bachelor’s Degree in English/Communications, she is passionate about creating a more inclusive future. From graduating from Mississippi Valley State University to leading initiatives like the Washington State Department of Ecology’s Equal Employment Opportunity Program, Felecia is dedicated to making a positive impact. Join her journey on our blog as she shares insights and leads the charge for equity through The Equality Network.