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Raymond Sheppard: African Nova Scotians must be respected within the healthcare system

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Late last year I wrote about my frustration of being passed over when I visited the IWK emergency department with my grandson. 

See also: Raymond Sheppard: Passed over

As a result I was asked to meet with some ranking members of the executive of the IWK hierarchy. I met with Tanya Sheppard and Jane Palmer, both individuals of European descent. 

During our one-hour discussion I restated the facts of my visit to the IWK Hospital for Children in Halifax with my grandson on Sunday December 1, 2019. I felt and still feel, or should I say I know, that I was passed over because I am African Nova Scotian. 

I also mentioned that the IWK has cameras at the hospital and the cameras will not lie unless they are tampered with. 

Both Ms. Sheppard and Ms. Palmer were respectful and kind during our discussion. Ms. Palmer did most of the talking for this team of two. She said that there may have been the perception of being passed over, but the perception is my reality. I then stated that ignorance is no excuse for racism in causing pain.

Ms. Palmer acknowledged that there is a need to be proactive on behalf of those in need of healthcare, especially where persons coming into a facility are in a vulnerable state.

Ms. Palmer asked what I feel could be done to improve relations and one’s experience when there is a need to visit a medical facility.

My response was that “the healthcare system is inefficient, despite living in an age of healthcare miracles, where what would have killed somebody ten years ago no longer does so today.

In Nova Scotia, and all of Canada for that matter, the healthcare system is sick, especially where it pertains to the treatment, or the lack thereof, of African Nova Scotians and persons of colour.

See also: Mayann Francis about incident at Dartmouth General: “I had to explain that racist behaviour is not only calling somebody the N-word”

The system seems bent on profits and saving money on the back of people who are suffering. Nova Scotians know that our healthcare system is in disarray. We have become frustrated and numb over the long wait times and for African Nova Scotians, when we are ignored. I also stated that racial inequality and racism has no place in healthcare. Some will argue that racism does not exist in healthcare in Nova Scotia; most African Nova Scotians would strongly disagree.

This dysfunctional healthcare system is making us sick and prolongs our sickness.

It was at this point that I made some suggestions:

  1. put pictures up that reflect the diversity of the community so many people can identify.
  2. maybe have a person of colour as a greeter.
  3. cultural competency training
  4. emphasize diversity, equity and inclusion, community relations building, respect and equitability, etc.

When I was asked if I wanted to sit on a committee or two. I explained that I would probably only last a week on a committee if there was no recognizing one’s privilege. I also said there needs to be a Cultural Relations Committee and the need for change is system wide 

I will stay on this so that others may have the dignity and respect they deserve. Meanwhile, I still have the option of filing a human rights complaint and I have a number of avenues that I can pursue. Having said this, I would rather work with Ms. Sheppard and Ms. Palmer to bring about meaningful and lasting change. 

See also: Dr. Lynn Jones: Going to the ER while Black

See also: Open letter to the Premier: Seven actions to stop systemic racism in our health care system

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