First Nations patients more likely to leave ER without care, study says

Racism in emergency rooms

Researchers say First Nations patients are more likely to leave Alberta emergency departments before receiving care than non-Indigenous patients.

They say a new study shows that anti-Indigenous racism is part of the reason why.

Lead author Patrick McLane of the University of Alberta says provincial data from 2012 to 2017 showed 6.8 per cent of First Nations patients left emergency departments before being seen, or against medical advice.

That's compared to just 3.7 per cent of non-First Nations patients.

McLane says after controlling for variables such as other patient demographics, geography or type of diagnosis, First Nations status was the only apparent explanation for the difference.

That conclusion was backed up by interviews conducted from 2019 to 2022 with First Nations people who reported being asked stereotypical questions about substance use, overhearing racist comments and feeling like they were made to wait longer than other people for care.

Although the research was conducted in Alberta, McLane says the findings likely apply to emergency department visits across Canada.

The study was published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 22.

Canadian Press health coverage receives support through a partnership with the Canadian Medical Association. CP is solely responsible for this content.

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