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There are a number of ways racism and discrimination are carried out by staff in health care. The following, amongst others, have been reported:-

  • Nasty comments directly to patients and staff who are from different ethnic groups
  • Nasty comments about patients and staff who are from a different ethnic groups
  • Stereotyping people ... “They all drink”, when this is clearly not so
  • Unpleasant looks directed to patients, families and staff who are from different ethnic groups
  • Making people wait longer and avoiding giving them care
  • Not talking as long with people who are from different ethnic groups
  • Not approaching Aboriginal staff, even when they are the most senior

These are everyday, cruel acts of racism that take place in health care. However, much more serious acts of racism and discrimination also occur in health care. It is worth noting that only 50 years ago in Australia that many Aboriginal people were cared for in Native Hospitals – rough buildings out back of the regular hospitals they were not allowed in to.

Discriminatory health management in which people get less access to recommended health care has been widely described internationally. In Australia it has been found that, compared to non-Indigenous patients with the same medical needs, Indigenous patients were about one-third less likely to receive appropriate medical care across all conditions (Cunningham 2002), as well as for particular diseases such as lung cancer (Hall et al. 2007) and coronary procedures (Coory & Walsh 2005). Indigenous Australians are three times less likely to receive kidney transplants than other Australians with the same level of need (Cass et al. 2004). Similar research in Aotearoa shows that, given the same level of need, Māori are less likely than non-Māori to receive cardiac interventions (Westbrooke, Baxter & Hogan 2001) and obstetric interventions (Harris et al. 2007) and have higher rates of adverse events in hospital (Davis et al. 2006).(Paradies Y, Harris R, Anderson I, p 9.)