The Saanich Peninsula Hospital. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)

MLA ‘devastated’ by claims of racist blood-alcohol game at Greater Victoria hospital

Adam Olsen says racism in B.C. health care system is pervasive

“Devastating, troubling and abhorrent” are words a Greater Victoria politician used to describe allegations levelled against the Saanich Peninsula Hospital that staff participated in racist acts currently under investigation by the province.

Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, interim leader of the B.C. Green Party and member of Tsartlip First Nation, issued a statement Wednesday saying he is well aware of pervasive racism in B.C.’s health care system but hearing of such blatant discrimination was “devastating.”

Olsen’s statement comes in response to Friday’s announcement that the Ministry of Health is investigating allegations of emergency room doctors and nurses playing a “game” where they guess the blood alcohol level of Indigenous patients and possibly others.

“It is devastating to hear about such blatant acts of racism, not just because the incidents themselves are abhorrent, but because it speaks to a work environment in which they were not only tolerated, but trivialized,” Olsen said. “Let’s be clear: nothing about this is a ‘game’ and I am deeply saddened to hear it referred to as such.”

READ ALSO: B.C. launches investigation into allegations of racist blood-alcohol guessing game in ER

Black Press Media has learned that the “game” played by hospital staff was akin to the TV show Price is Right. B.C. Minister of Health Adrian Dix announced Friday that Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has been appointed by the province to look into the allegations.

Speaking with Black Press Media, Olsen said there needs to be immediate action so that members of Indigenous communities will feel safe accessing health care.

“What I would like to hear is, what are the plans to address the immediate need to ensure there is competence in that healthcare facility?” he said. “Nothing about it this is a ‘game.’ This is the health and well-being of people.”

Ron Rice, executive director of the Victoria Native Friendship Centre, said racism is the reason many Indigenous people avoid seeking health care at all.

“The reality is even if you are getting into these situations where they are playing this game around you, that’s a step up from a lot of people who wouldn’t go to the hospital in emergency situations, because they don’t think they will be treated with any care or concern.”

Rice said racism in the health care system is not isolated to the allegations facing the Saanich Peninsula Hospital.

“It’s good these things are being said, but what’s being done about it?” he asked. “We need to be putting pressure on the province, on the health authority, on the unions – the unions that represent these individuals should be holding these individuals to a certain standard.

“The whole system needs to weigh heavy on this, it’s not something we can sweep under a rug at this point.”

In a statement, Island Health said it fully supports the provincial investigation but did not confirm which hospital was involved in the allegations.

“Island Health’s CEO has been clear with all staff and medical staff, stating if this behavior is occurring – whether in an emergency department or any other service area – it must stop immediately,” the health authority said. “As an investigation is underway into these allegations, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

In March the Saanich Peninsula Hospital unveiled a new sign printed with an Indigenous name – LAU,WELNEW,AUTW – which translates to ‘place of healing.’ The sign was chosen by the WSANEC people and approved by chiefs from the four local First Nations.

READ ALSO: Healthcare racism probe must go to systemic roots, not just ‘bad apples’: Indigenous doctor

With files from Ashley Wadhwani.


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
nina.grossman@blackpress.ca Follow us on Instagram.
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

IndigenousracismVancouver Island Health Authority

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Sport Abbotsford calls for opening of Centennial Outdoor Pool

Local sport association claims lack of consulting from City of Abbotsford in decision process

Grand opening for Abbotsford Otter Co-op set for Monday

East Abbotsford store offering number of sales and prizes at opening event

Fraser Valley Bandits, CEBL bringing pro sports back later this month

Abbotsford-based basketball team kicks off CEBL Summer Series on July 26

UFV Cascades men’s basketball signs pair of players

Burnaby’s Wilson, South Delta’s Willemsen added to team

VIDEO: Car goes off Highway 1 and into a ditch in Chilliwack

Eastbound vehicle left the highway ending in the ditch on south side of Luckakuck Way

B.C. accommodators need phone lines to light up as in-province travel given green light

Travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic have decimated the tourism and hospitality industries

300 Cache Creek residents on evacuation alert due to flood risk as river rises

Heavy rainfall on Canada Day has river rising steadily, threatening 175 properties

Friends, family remember victim of Langley possible triple-homicide fire at memorial

Memorial held for one the of three found dead at a house fire in Langley Meadows last month

Family and friends mark birthday of teen who died after being discovered in Langley park

Carson Crimeni suffered an apparent drug overdose, his final moments broadcast on social media

First glimpse of Canada’s true COVID-19 infection rate expected mid-July

At least 105,000 Canadians have tested positive for COVID-19 since the coronavirus was identified

Semi and BMW collide on South Surrey highway

At least one person to hospital, both vehicles sustained significant damage

Police ramp up efforts to get impaired drivers off B.C. roads this summer

July is dedicated to the Summer CounterAttack Impaired Driving Campaign

Migrant workers stage multi-city action for full status amid COVID-19 risks

‘COVID-19 has exacerbated an existing crisis’

Okanagan school drops ‘Rebels’ sports team name, citing links with U.S. Civil War

Name and formerly-used images “fly in the face” of the district’s human rights policy, says board chair

Most Read