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

Some examples of ‘kindness’ rocks that were painted by members of the Boys and Girls Club in Rimbey. photo submitted
The ‘kindness rock snake’ continues to take shape in Rimbey

Residents are asked to contribute a ‘kindness rock’ to a project near the Blindman Youth Action Building

The City of Red Deer sits at 249 active cases of the virus, after hitting a peak of 565 active cases on Feb. 22. (Black Press file image)
Red Deer down to 119 active COVID-19 cases

Province identifies 179 new cases Saturday

Member Terry Parsons’ custom built track vehicle.
Forestburg’s Area 53 Racetrack gears up for action-packed season

Site will also host a portion of the ‘Miles of Mayhem’ event in July

Image/ Metro Creative Connection
Rimbey Municipal Library struggling to finish expansion amid construction cost boom

‘We found that the cost is at least $100,000 more than anticipated.’

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

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Christian Eriksen in stable condition, Euro 2020 match resumes

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

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 takes Indigenous children from their families

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

Grade 12 students at Wetaskiwin Composite High School took place in the annual water fight off school property on June 11, 2021. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.
Graduating students in Wetaskiwin throw water fight after being told it could result in suspension

Students were told their participation could result in them being barred from graduation ceremonies.

The arrest south of Winnipeg occurred before Bernier was to arrive at a protest in the city. (Twitter/Maxime Bernier)
Maxime Bernier arrested following anti-rules rallies in Manitoba: RCMP

He’s been charged with exceeding public gathering limits and violating Manitoba’s requirement to self-isolate

Most Read