Report: B.C. residents face higher health care costs because of racism

CUPE’s Stop Health Disparities report looks at how racism affects B.C. residents’ experiences in health care.

It was released Monday.

In the interim, B.C. Premier John Horgan, the B.C. Liberals and the B.C. NDP have reached a compromise with CUPE.

Under the agreement, CUPE members will be recognized as a “safety net” for patients, and doctors can withdraw from work if employees haven’t been provided training and accommodations. The agreement sets up additional cultural awareness and diversity training, as well as mandated hiring and retention of indigenous practitioners.

(Dr. Anthony Elias, a medical officer of health for the West Island Health Authority was the primary author of the report.)

The report said 40 percent of unmet need related to race exists in emergency departments, while 40 percent of the demands for mental health and addictions services comes from people with visible minority identification.

It shows that B.C. residents face more health problems related to racism than other Canadians – and poor health translates into health care costs of $19 billion annually.

Some notable findings:

The majority of non-visible minority residents often don’t feel safe at their health care providers because they are believed to be dangerous. They’re twice as likely to experience racism in the emergency department, and they have more adverse health outcomes.

“There is a sentiment that Indian, black, and minority students are ‘youth of colour’ and not indigenous people,” says the report. “In fact, indigenous people are four times more likely to be absent for urgent (non-emergency) health reasons, and 21 times more likely to be taken to an urgent care hospital for an urgent health condition.”

Native patients are 45 percent more likely to be referred to emergency for mental health and addictions needs, and are 50 percent more likely to suffer delayed care (one in three on-call patients don’t get admitted, discharged or discharged within 18 hours).

There is greater distrust of government when it comes to caring for patients with visible minorities.

Meanwhile, younger patients don’t feel that their needs will be met by the health care system. Approximately 85 percent of transgender people report that they’ve experienced racial bias in health care, and 64 percent report being shut out of care altogether.

The report said the racism findings come from interviews with hundreds of patients and community leaders, health professionals, and indigenous advocates.

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