Kathy MacNeil, president and chief executive officer of Island Health, Dawn Thomas, acting deputy health minister and Island Health’s vice president, Indigenous health and diversity and Chief Don Tom of Tsartlip First Nation, stand out Saanich Peninsula Hospital Tuesday morning, when they also answered questions about a new report that “widespread systemic racism against Indigenous people” in the provincial health care system. (Island Health/Submitted)

Kathy MacNeil, president and chief executive officer of Island Health, Dawn Thomas, acting deputy health minister and Island Health’s vice president, Indigenous health and diversity and Chief Don Tom of Tsartlip First Nation, stand out Saanich Peninsula Hospital Tuesday morning, when they also answered questions about a new report that “widespread systemic racism against Indigenous people” in the provincial health care system. (Island Health/Submitted)

Head of Island Health says Saanich Peninsula Hospital not part of racist guessing game

Tsartlip First Nations Chief Don Tom welcomes changes following report but promises future scrutiny

The president and chief executive officer of Island Health denies the Saanich Peninsula was the site of a game involving medical staff guessing blood alcohol levels of Indigenous patients.

“What can I say based on the review and the report findings, there is no evidence of that game here at Saanich Peninsula,” said Kathy MacNeil during a media conference following an invitation by Chief Don Tom of Tsartlip First Nation. “And in June, when those allegations came forward, I immediately issued a message, that if there was anything happening like that, it [should] stop immediately and the local leadership here, medical staff in particular, were very clear that that game did not occur here.”

When the allegations first made their way into the public this summer, Island Health would not confirm the identity of the hospital from where the allegations emerged.

Those allegations led to a meeting between Island Health and local First Nations.

Tom said his immediate family members have “seen and felt” improvements at the Peninsula hospital. “When you are treated with dignity and respect, it certainly goes a long way,” he said. “Right now, I am pleased to hear the steps that Island Health has taken, because it is necessary.”

Local First Nations have no other option than to access Saanich Peninsula, he said, adding that local community members and leaders will hold Island Health accountable for implementing the recommendations.

The provincial government tasked Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond to investigate the allegations as part of a broad review of the provincial health care system and its treatment of Indigenous people.

RELATED: Peninsula hospital one where ‘significant work underway’ to repair Indigenous relations

RELATED: MLA, Tsartlip member says ‘silo’ approach won’t work dealing with racism in health care

RELATED: MLA ‘devastated’ by claims of racist blood-alcohol ‘game’ at Saanich Peninsula Hospital

While Turpel-Lafond did not find evidence to substantiate allegations of such a guessing game being played in “any organized” fashion, she found “episodic” evidence of such a game without naming any specific hospitals, while promising additional information at a later date. She also did not comment directly on the whether such a game took place Saanich Peninsula Hospital, but identified it as a facility where “significant work” has happened to improve relations.

She did report finding “widespread systemic racism against Indigenous people” in the provincial health care system and that prompted a Dec. 1 press conference featuring MacNeil as well as two figures expected to play major roles as the recommendations found in the report are translated into action. Dawn Thomas, Island Health’s vice president, Indigenous health and diversity and Tom of Tsartlip First Nation.

Thomas will head a task force to implement the recommendations in bringing out system-wide changes following her appointment as acting deputy health minister, while Tom will have political influence through his familiarity with local conditions as well as his position as vice-president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs.

Tom said during his opening remarks that First Nations are not surprised by the findings of the report, adding that Island Health has heard concerns about racism in the health care system before.

MacNeil promised that Island Health is committed to fulfilling the recommendations.


Do you have a story tip? Email: vnc.editorial@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

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

Just Posted

Keygan Power with brother Quintin and mom Allison while camping the weekend before Keygan’s brain hemorrhage on Aug. 2, 2020. (Photo Allison Power)
Saanich teen ‘locked inside,’ regaining speech after severe brain hemorrhage

16-year-old suffers traumatic loss of function, still plays a mean game of chess

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: Vancouver Island in a January spike while B.C. cases decrease

Island’s top doc Dr. Stanwick breaks down the Island’s rising numbers

North Saanich is giving local businesses a break by waving renewal fees for 2021. (Black Press Media file photo)
North Saanich waives business renewal fees for 2021

The municipality raised $48,000 from businesses licences in 2020

The Sooke school district has filled all spots for their French immersion and nature kinderagarten programs in 2021-2022 school year. Regular kindergarten registration is still open and available. (Black Press Media file photo)
Sooke school district gets surplus of nature, French immersion kindergarten applications

Not enough room for almost half of nature kindergarten applicants

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
Canadian, American rescue crews searching for missing aircraft in waters near Victoria

The search is centered around the waters northeast of Port Angeles

The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP have arrested a prolific offender who is now facing more than 40 charges. (Black Press file photo)
‘Priority offender’ arrested in Cowichan Valley faces more than 40 charges

Tyler Elrix, 37, had a history of evading police; was ordered not to be in Vancouver Island

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Surrey RCMP are investigating after a pedestrian was struck and killed at 183 Street and Highway 10 Friday night. (File photo)
Modelling of predicted transmission growth from the B117 COVID-19 variant in British Columbia. (Simon Fraser University)
COVID-19 variant predicted to cause ‘unmanageable’ case spike in B.C: report

SFU researchers predict a doubling of COVID-19 cases every two weeks if the variant spreads

The Brucejack mine is 65 km north of Stewart in northwestern B.C. (Pretivm Photo)
B.C. mine executives see bright gleam in post-COVID future

Low carbon drives demand for copper, steelmaking coal

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
Canadians divided over Keystone pipeline, despite U.S. president’s permit pullback

Two-thirds of Canadians think Biden’s decision was a “bad thing” for Alberta

Most Read