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Discrimination has no place in medicine

July Messenger 2020, Medical Matters | Posted July 9, 2020
Two weeks ago, when I originally wrote this article for the July Messenger, I intended to address the concerns we all feel about systemic racism and discrimination in health care. Since that time, CBC has written two stories about an incident in Grande Prairie. Regardless of the timing, I’d still like to share my thoughts on how all of us can reflect, and move forward. In fact, it’s more important now than ever.

First and foremost, CPSA acknowledges our management and response to the QEII incident was significantly delayed. Although we are bound by the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) and cannot comment on details of the situation, we can acknowledge we moved too slowly.  Let me say that we do our absolute best to not pass judgement until we have all the facts. That is part of the reason we need to take our time. However, we did not get the balance right in this case.  We take ownership for this error and have enacted plans to improve our process moving forward.

Thank you to the physicians who shared their feedback with us about this incident. We appreciate your honest input to help CPSA do better in the future.  As a regulatory body that supports physicians in their continuous development, it’s important that we look at how we can do better as an organization. One of CPSA’s core values is continual learning, it’s important that we reflect on our own processes to acknowledge where we must do better in the future, for Albertans and physicians alike.

After hearing about many experiences people are having in health care and hearing your concerns around the Grande Prairie incident I’m left feeling both concerned and aware that I need to start a conversation with our profession about discrimination. We need to recognize that everyone has a bias, and unless we talk about it and educate ourselves, these harmful biases will continue to be expressed both consciously and unconsciously.

CPSA is not the only player in Alberta’s healthcare system; however, I can assure you that we will strive to improve by recognizing and addressing our own implicit biases and reducing the time it takes to address complaints. We can’t fix this just by using our disciplinary authority over doctors who receive complaints. We need to address it every day in all that we do.

As CPSA looks honestly at our own practices and commit to change, the entire medical profession should also work to protect the public and healthcare workers from discrimination in healthcare.  Wherever we encounter discrimination of any kind, our goal is to be a proactive part of the solution.  We are so incredibly fortunate to have a team of talented physicians from every background providing exceptional care in Alberta, and as the CMA Code of Ethics and Professionalism mandates, physicians must treat our colleagues “with dignity and as persons worthy of respect.” We also can’t forget this includes patients as well. The code goes on to say “Always treat the patient with dignity and respect the equal and intrinsic worth of all persons.” We all should take this seriously as guidance to live and work by.

I’m calling on all physicians to help be a part of the solution. Learn about discrimination, talk about it, evaluate ourselves and-most importantly-when you see it, speak up and stop it. Rather than ostracizing and passing judgement on your colleagues when you witness it, start a proactive conversation. If that doesn’t work then bring it to someone’s attention. Physicians are leaders in society, and we have an enormous impact on how society behaves. Of course, all of us, including CPSA, make mistakes. Let us look at our own actions with clear eyes, and all continually strive to make healthcare more equitable, more inclusive and more just. I can assure you the CPSA will be doing that.

Your comments are appreciated.


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