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No place for racism in healthcare

17 Apr 2020

The Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) issued a media release detailing occasions of medical practitioners denying Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples access to culturally safe healthcare seeking testing for COVID-19.

These cases in rural New South Wales and Western Australia involved medical practitioners refusing COVID-19 related healthcare on the grounds of patient identity and racist stereotypes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders not practising self-hygiene.

Racism from registered healthcare professionals will not be tolerated, particularly given the vulnerability of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to the virus who have and continue to experience prejudice and bias seeking necessary healthcare. Discrimination in healthcare contributes to health inequity.

‘We encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples who have experienced culturally unsafe incidents of care from a registered health practitioner to submit a notification or complaint to Ahpra. We will not tolerate racism particularly given the impact it has on community members to accessing critical healthcare at this time’ said Martin Fletcher, CEO.

In February 2020, the National Scheme’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Cultural Safety Strategy 2020-2025 (the Strategy) was released, proving our commitment to achieving patient safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples as the norm and the inextricably linked elements of clinical and cultural safety. The Strategy strives to achieve the national priority of a health system free of racism.

Karl Briscoe co-Chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Strategy Group said, ‘these cases are very disappointing to hear as it fundamentally opposes our commitment to achieving culturally safe healthcare. We as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, have a right to equitable and culturally safe healthcare treatment from all health professionals.’

National Boards and Ahpra remind all registered health practitioners that they are required to comply with their profession’s Code of Conduct which condemns discrimination and racism in practice.

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Page reviewed 17/04/2020