Manitoba hospitals will soon be collecting race based patient info

 By Dave Baxter

 Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The province of Manitoba will soon be the first province in Canada to collect race-based data from hospital patients, as it looks to find ways to combat what one Manitoba doctor says are ongoing “racial and ethnic disparities” in the health-care system.


“We know that there are racial and ethnic disparities in access to health care, in the care people receive, and in overall health status,” Dr. Marcia Anderson said in a Thursday media release.


Anderson currently serves in the role of vice-dean of Indigenous health, social justice and anti-racism at the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, but since the COVID-19 pandemic first began in Manitoba in 2020, she has also served as the public health lead for the First Nations pandemic response coordination team.


Anderson said her work with the pandemic response team, both collecting and analyzing data, and working to get accurate information out to Indigenous people and communities about COVID-19, has shown her and other medical experts that race and ethnicity play a role in the level of care Manitoba residents receive from the health-care system.


“Manitoba has been a leader in using data to show the disproportionate effects of COVID-19 on racialized communities,” Anderson said.


Beginning in April of this year, through a new program that will be led by Anderson, patients in Manitoba hospitals will be asked to voluntarily declare their ethnic identity by being asked to choose from a list of Indigenous identities including First Nations, Inuit or **>Metis<**, or other identities such as Black, Filipino, Southeast Asian, Middle Eastern or White.


According to Anderson, countries such as the United States, Australia and England all collect racial identifiers as part of health data, and she said “Canada is now recognizing the need for this kind of information.”


“We hope the public will see the benefits in participating, as they did when we collected these identifiers during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Anderson said.


“Self-declaring is a way to be counted as a member of your racial or ethnic community, and to contribute to health research.”


A University of Manitoba study released in 2019 said the “health gap” between First Nations people and non-First Nations people in this province was growing, as it showed an 11-year age gap between life expectancy for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, up from a seven-year gap recorded in 2002.


Monika Warren, the chief nursing officer at Shared Health, applauded the new program saying she believes it will help this province’s health-care system to better understand how race and ethnicity affect health care in Manitoba.


“The collection of this demographic data is essential for the measurement of health disparities that result from systemic racism, bias and discrimination,” Warren said.


Warren also made it clear that no one in Manitoba will be forced to give their ethnic identity when visiting a hospital unless they choose to, but she hopes people consider offering the information.


“While this disclosure of information is voluntary and patients are free to decline, it is an important element in our efforts to improve patient care, health reporting and planning, and health system performance and services,” Warren said.


Manitoba Health Minister Audrey Gordon said the collection of racial data at hospitals will be valuable, as she said the province looks for ways to address and combat inequity in health care and health outcomes, and to combat racism in the health-care system.


“This important initiative will inform health leadership decisions in addressing inequities and improve the patient experience throughout the province,” Gordon said.


“There is zero tolerance for racism in our health-care system, and our health-care system is committed to providing safe and inclusive patient care.”


According to the province, beginning in April racial and ethnic information will be collected as a routine part of patient registration at hospitals, including emergency departments across Manitoba.


-Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.



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