A lack of family physicians in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area is worsening. (Pixabay photo)

A lack of family physicians in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area is worsening. (Pixabay photo)

Indigenous patients face higher risk of death post-surgery, study suggests

The data also showed Indigenous patients were less likely to undergo surgeries

Indigenous surgery patients are nearly a third more likely to die after their procedures than other populations in Canada and face higher risks of complications, new research suggests as doctors warn these inequities could worsen with the COVID-19 crisis.

The Canadian Medical Association Journal published a systemic review on Monday consisting of 28 separate studies. The research involved roughly 1.9 million participants — about 10 per cent of whom identified as Indigenous — to assess the surgical outcomes for Indigenous patients in Canada across a range of procedures.

Lead author Dr. Jason McVicar said the findings underscore the need for the First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities to lead a data-informed overhaul of health care, particularly as the pandemic raises concerns that Indigenous patients will fall behind in the mounting backlog of surgeries.

“This study tells Canadians two things: that we need better data, and the data that we have tells us that we need to do better,” said McVicar, a Métis anesthesiologist at The Ottawa Hospital.

Researchers found Indigenous Peoples face a 30 per cent higher death rate after surgery compared to non-Indigenous patients, according to data from four studies with a combined 7,135 participants.

The authors also analyzed literature indicating that Indigenous patients suffered higher rates of surgical complications, including post-operative infections and readmissions to hospital.

The data also showed Indigenous patients were less likely to undergo surgeries aimed at improving quality of life, such as joint replacements, as well as potentially life-saving procedures including cardiac surgery, transplants and caesarean sections.

McVicar said the findings were limited by the scant and poor quality research available, noting that none of the data specifically pertained to Inuit and Métis communities.

He called for a national strategy to measure and address the disparities in surgical outcomes for Indigenous Peoples. But for such an effort to work, McVicar argued it should be led by the First Nations, Inuit and Métis health workers, researchers and organizers who are best equipped to meet the needs of their communities.

“The Canadian health-care system is currently getting the outcomes it is designed to get. It is based on a highly colonial structure,” he said. “If we are honest about transformative change in terms of improving outcomes for First Nations, Inuit and Métis people, then we need to address change at every level in the system.”

The issue is all the more urgent in light of the COVID-19 pandemic’s disproportionate impact on Indigenous communities, said McVicar, adding such inequities could ripple through the medical system for years to come if Indigenous patients aren’t prioritized for treatment amid a growing backlog of postponed surgeries. In Ontario alone, that number stretches into the hundreds of thousands.

“When we go back to address that backlog, we know that those with the political agency to strongly advocate for themselves will inevitably get to the front of the line,” McVicar said. ”This again will disproportionately impact First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities.”

The research comes amid a national reckoning over anti-Indigenous racism in the health-care system after Joyce Echaquan, a 37-year-old Atikamekw woman, died last September in a Joliette, Que., hospital after filming staff making derogatory comments about her.

The widely shared video prompted the federal government to host a two-day summit to discuss systemic racism against Indigenous Peoples in health care. A Quebec coroner’s inquest into Echaquan’s death got underway last week.

Dr. Alika Lafontaine, an Indigenous health advocate and incoming president of the Canadian Medical Association, said Monday’s research represents the tip of the iceberg in unpacking the layers of discrimination against Indigenous patients.

“The pandemic has revealed a lot of things that those of us who treat high proportions of Indigenous patients in our practices, or are Indigenous ourselves, have appreciated for years,” said Lafontaine, an anesthesiologist in Grande Prairie, Alta.

“It’s a big problem that we haven’t spent a lot of time studying, and even less time trying to solve.”

As the COVID-19 crisis has laid bare the life-threatening consequences of medical racism, Lafontaine said it has also provided an opportunity to implement the sweeping changes needed to ensure all Canadians have access to first-class health care.

“This research becomes so much more important, because it identifies the people and the populations that we haven’t designed the system around, so we can build a better system after,” he said. “That’s the real promise, I think, of a post-pandemic health-care system.”

READ MORE: Anti-Indigenous racism embedded in B.C. healthcare system: report

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Indigenous

Just Posted

The ‘official’ opening of 2nd Edition Coworking in downtown Fernie, a project five years in the making by the Fernie Chamber of Commerce. Left to right: Executive Director of the Fernie Chamber Brad Parsell, incoming President of the Fernie Chamber Norm Fraser, outgoing President of the Fernie Chamber Anita Palmer, and Mayor of Fernie Ange Qualizza. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Fernie Chamber cuts the ribbon on 2nd Edition

The new coworking space in Fernie is now ‘officially’ open, but has been operating since early 2021

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

Sparwood Mayor David Wilks with the new AED SaveStation installed at the Sparwood Leisure Centre. (Contributed by District of Sparwood)
Sparwood installs public AED

The SaveStation was installed thanks to a grant from CP Rail

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Thursday, June 10, mentioned Grand Forks among two other COVID “hot spots” in B.C. Photo: Screenshot - YouTube COVID-19 BC Update, June 10, 2021
PHO Henry says West Kootenay city is a COVID ‘hot spot’ in B.C.

There are 11 cases of COVID-19 in the Grand Forks local health area, according the BC CDC

(File)
“Gift card scam,” and “grandparent scam” are on the rise, Cranbrook RCMP say

Folks are falling for these scams: “No Government agency or reputable company will ever ask anyone to pay with gift cards in lieu of their fines”

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system also takes Indigenous children from their families, communities and nations

Nathan Watts, a member of the Tseshaht First Nation near Port Alberni, shares his story of substance use, a perspective he said isn’t seen enough. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Watts)
Public shaming, hate perpetuates further substance use: UVic researcher

Longtime addict Nathan Watts offers a user’s perspective on substance use

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Her death is considered a homicide and connected to the slain brothers found on a Naramata forest road. (Submitted)
Condolences pour in for Kathy Richardson, Naramata’s 3rd homicide victim in recent weeks

Richardson was well liked in the community, a volunteer firefighter with a home-based salon

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
More than 75% of B.C. adults have 1st dose of COVID vaccine

The federal government has confirmed a boost in the Moderna vaccine will be coming later this month

Airport ground crew offload a plane carrying just under 300,000 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine which is developed by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
1st batch of Johnson & Johnson vaccines won’t be released in Canada over quality concerns

The vaccines were quarantined in April before they were distributed to provinces

The rainbow flag flies beside the Canadian flag outside the University of the Fraser Valley’s Chilliwack campus on June 26, 2020. Monday, June 14, 2021 is Flag Day, and also June is Pride Month. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of June 13 to 19

Flag Day, Garbage Man Day, International Panic Day all coming up this week

Most Read