Health officials and Indigenous leaders in northern Manitoba have signed a declaration to address racism in the health-care system.
The document commits the regional health system to reduce barriers for Indigenous people seeking care and reduce the gaps in care between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
Bernice Thorassie, who helps northern Indigenous patients navigate the health-care system, says she has seen people struggle to get treatment and face barriers after travelling from their home communities to Thompson, Man., or Winnipeg.
She says there is a high rate of Indigenous people in the Thompson region who have amputated feet or legs, and some might have been spared the amputation with better treatment.
Cal Huntley, board chair of the northern regional health authority, says the declaration is a step to correcting long-standing wrongs.
The groups have committed to biannual reviews to gauge progress.
“We are going to be looking at developing databases that describe Indigenous patients versus non-Indigenous patients,” said Dr. Barry Lavallee, chief executive officer of Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin, a First Nations health agency.
“When we see, for example, whether a First Nations child with severe asthma is offered steroids, which are really important, compared to non-Indigenous.”
Garrison Settee, grand chief of the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, which represents northern First Nation communities, said the declaration signed Monday is a first step in a long journey.
“We are committing ourselves to collaborate, to begin the healing of decades of systemic racism.”
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