The McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) is facing allegations of systemic discrimination from employees and patients, according to a preliminary report obtained by the Montreal Gazette newspaper.
Multiple staff and patient advocates Global News spoke to say racism, bullying and other problems have been an issue for years, despite numerous complaints.
Vicki McDonald, an intervention worker at the Resilience Montreal day shelter, said Indigenous mothers face discrimination at hospitals including the MUHC.
“Actually a lot,’ she noted. “There’s a lot of birth alerts and everything when you’re indigenous.”
She said last month an Indigenous client gave birth at the MUHC Glen site and what happened next disturbed her.
“Twenty minutes before I got there they took the baby,” she told Global News. “I had a car full of stuff, I had clothing, I had diapers, I had a car seat, I had everything.”
McDonald said she found the family outside crying with no information about who had the baby. According to the intervention worker, staff said the mother wasn’t prepared for a child.
“They said they smelled alcohol on her breath,” McDonald recalled. “She didn’t drink throughout her pregnancy. Maybe they smelled the sanitizer she used to clean her hands.”
Days later McDonald managed to track down the child and reunite the infant with the mother.
Dawn Mcnichols, a préposé aux bénéficiaires (PAB), or patient attendant, at the Royal Victoria, claims she’s seen and experienced many incidents of what she believes is racism at the hospital.
“There seems to be a pattern,” she reflected. There really seems to be a pattern.”
The night shift worker suspects it’s racism why she’s still a patient attendant at the hospital though she qualified as Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) in 1990 and applied for other positions at the hospital. During the day she works as a nurse at a CLSC, a free community clinic run by the provincial government.
According to McNichols other racialized colleagues have also been blocked for promotion.
“Yes,” she insisted. “Because a lot of us who are there and working as PAB’s we have other qualifications.”
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McNichols said she’s also faced discrimination from patients.
“The other night one tell me not to touch him,” she recalled, laughing. “Nope. He said ‘I don’t want you to touch me. Get out.'”
On top of that, she added, racialized patients are so poorly treated by staff, she’s disgusted.
“It was so obvious,” she insisted, saying over multiple nights one week many were left in filth. “I made complaints and I made reports, I took pictures, sent it to the management for them so see.”
In a statement on its website the MUHC says for the last two years it “has been working to document a sociocultural portrait of the MUHC’s workforce and both the lived experiences and perceptions of its teams and patients regarding (Employment Diversity and Inclusion) issues and opportunities.”
A report on the findings is expected to be released at a public meeting of the board September 23.