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 Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Alberta reports 100 new cases of COVID-19

The Central zone sits at 218 active cases

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Red Deer drops to 71 active cases of COVID-19

Province adds 127 new cases of the virus

Police officers and their dogs undergo training at the RCMP Police Dog Services training centre in Innisfail, Alta., on Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Mounties say they are searching for an armed and dangerous man near a provincial park in northern Alberta who is believed to have shot and killed a service dog during a police chase. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
RCMP search for armed man in northern Alberta after police dog shot and killed

Cpl. Deanna Fontaine says a police service dog named Jago was shot during the pursuit

Alberta now has 2,336 active cases of COVID-19, with 237 people in hospital, including 58 in intensive care. (Black Press file photo)
Red Deer down to 73 active cases of COVID-19, lowest since early November

The Central zone has 253 active cases of the virus

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

Orange shirts, shoes, flowers and messages are displayed on the steps outside the legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Tuesday, June 8, 2021 following a ceremony hosted by the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations in honour of the 215 residential school children whose remains have been discovered buried near the facility in Kamloops, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Alberta city cancels Canada Day fireworks at site of former residential school

City of St. Albert says that the are where the display was planned, is the site of the former Youville Residential School

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Canadians who got AstraZeneca shot can now see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

Most Read