A Canadian province is investigating claims that healthcare staff played a racist “game” by betting on the blood alcohol level of indigenous patients.
The claims, involving staff in at least one British Columbia hospital, came to light after a community leader filed a complaint on Thursday.
Health Minister Adrian Dix called the allegations “abhorrent” and has hired an independent investigator.
He would not say which hospital was named in the complaint.
“The allegation is that a game was being played to investigate the blood alcohol level of patients in the emergency rooms, in particular with indigenous people and perhaps others. And if true, it is intolerable and racist and of course (has) affected profoundly patient care,” Mr Dix told a press conference Friday. He did not say if any staff faced disciplinary action.
The game was allegedly dubbed “The Price is Right”, after the popular game show. Staff lost if they guessed above the real blood alcohol limit. The game was played when indigenous patients were admitted to hospital, but other races may have been targets as well, Mr Dix said.
The original complaint named one hospital, but he said the investigation would look into allegations of racism by staff across the healthcare system, and he expected more issues would come to light.
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the former Representative for Children and Youth in the province, will lead the investigation.
The complaint was filed by Daniel Fontaine, CEO of Métis Nation British Columbia, after a healthcare worker mentioned the game during a San’yas indigenous cultural safety training session.
He says he is not surprised, and that the government has known about racism in the healthcare system for years.
“There is something seriously wrong here besides The Price is Right. The Price is Right is just one game,” he told CBC.
A 2019 report by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer found that eliminating racism would improve cancer outcomes, as patients would be more likely to trust their healthcare providers.
A national report in 2015 called First Peoples, Second-Class Treatment found that racism against indigenous people in the healthcare system contributed to their overall poorer health outcomes, compared to non-indigenous Canadians.