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Sunday, November 28, 2021

‘I’ve felt discrimination’: Black leaders in the medical community call for change

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Like in the United States and the United Kingdom, the coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately affected Black and racialized communities in Canada.

A Global News analysis in October last year found a strong association between Toronto’s neighbourhoods with a high number of coronavirus cases and those with a higher population of Black people.

A Statistics Canada report published in October 2020 also found noticeable differences in the age-standardized mortality rates depending on the proportion of the neighbourhood population who were Black in Montreal.

Health-care workers and experts say the disparity stems from a number of factors – such as low income, living arrangement, densely populated neighbourhoods, access to health care and the nature of work – that make Black Canadians more vulnerable to COVID-19.

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The pandemic has also highlighted “systemic racism” in the country’s health-care system, Akwatu Khenti, an expert in health and policy equity and associate professor at the University of Toronto, told Global News.

As Black History Month draws to a close later this week, we talk to some Black leaders in the medical community about their role during the COVID-19 pandemic and what needs to be done to tackle racial inequality.

Dr. Alexandra Bastiany

As a trailblazer in her field, Bastiany is hoping she can inspire other women of colour.

Photo provided by Alexandra Bastiany

Dr. Alexandra Bastiany, 33, is Canada’s first Black female interventional cardiologist — a specialist in diagnosing and treating cardiovascular diseases and heart conditions with non-surgical procedures.

Born and raised in Montreal, Bastiany then moved to Edmonton for two years for her specialization. Since July 2020, she has been working at the Thunder Bay Regional Hospital in Ontario.

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As a woman of colour in a male-dominated area of medical expertise, Bastiany said she experienced “microaggression” almost every day during her medical training — from patients touching her hair or skin to asking to see a “real doctor.”

“I believe that there’s definitely some discrimination in the medical field when we talk about attitude between peers, between doctors, nurses, hospital staff to patient, patients to hospital staff as well,” she told Global News.

“So we see that a lot. I’ve experienced it. It is present.”

Anti-racist incidents growing cause for concern

Anti-racist incidents growing cause for concern

To tackle the disparity in how COVID-19 has affected racialized communities, Khenti believes a lot more can be done — at both the federal and provincial levels.

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“There should be a public health education campaign aimed at the Black communities across this country to address the issues.

“They are experiencing systemic discrimination every day.”

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© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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