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Health official says stereotypes a factor in death of aboriginal man (Emergency-Room-Death)

Source:              The Canadian Press         Feb 25, 2014 21:58

WINNIPEG  An official with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority says wrong assumptions coupled with racial stereotypes could have been factors in the death of Brian Sinclair.

Sinclair, 45, was an aboriginal double-amputee who died at the Health Sciences Centre hospital of a treatable bladder infection while waiting in the emergency room for 34 hours.

The inquiry into his death has been told he was a substance abuser and frequent visitor to the emergency room.

Dr. Catherine Cook, the authority’s vice-president of aboriginal health, said situations with patients should be assessed individually.

But when told by provincial court Judge Tim Preston that an earlier witness said they didn’t disturb Sinclair because he was in “the usual position when intoxicated,” Cook said that means health-care workers were making assumptions based on past behaviour.

Cook said it is like when someone sees a person stumbling around due to their diabetes but assumes they are simply drunk.

“They don’t approach the person to ask if they need help,” she said. “These types of assumptions are very dangerous.

“That’s when you start wondering if the stereotype of aboriginal people comes to mind instead of the actual situation.”

When asked by Preston if she had any recommendations for the inquest, Cook only had one.

“As health-care providers, we all need to be mindful of the need to respect the people who put their trust in us.”

Cook also told the inquiry there are many programs at the hospital for aboriginal patients, including ones that help them access interpreters and elders and assist in discharge planning.

“Anecdotally, 40 to 60 per cent of our wards have aboriginal people,” she said.

Cook said the health authority also holds cultural awareness seminars for staff and tries to help hire and retain aboriginal employees.

Pointing to studies, Cook said “aboriginal patients are more comfortable receiving care from aboriginal health care workers.”

(Winnipeg Free Press)



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