The pandemic has exacerbated healthcare disparities for Indigenous women-new study says.

Indegenious Women
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Women said they couldn’t get mental health help or other medical care because of a shortage of resources.

A recent study outlines critical problems such as racism and a lack of access to mental health services that Indigenous people face while seeking health care during the pandemic.In her Circle is a study that recommends ways to improve healthcare programs.

In November 2020, about 43 indigenous women and two-spirit people were interviewed over the phone and online about their experiences. Many Indigenous women said the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in “poor access to mental health care, medical facilities, and another health-related programming, including face-to-face appointments,” according to researchers.

Former judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond released her findings into anti-Indigenous bias in the healthcare system in February, prompting the publication of this new study.

Racism and cultural protection are two issues that need to be addressed. Kim van der Woerd is the co-founder of Reciprocal Consulting, which collaborated on the study with the B.C. Women’s Health Foundation.

“Any inequities that were still present were magnified by the pandemic,” she says. “The fact that we have pretty pronounced racism within the health-care system contributes to inequity.”

Some patients feel wrongly singled out for having a COVID-19 infection because they are Indigenous, according to the study.

Rather than having to go get checked for COVID, I’d rather tell people I have a sexually transmitted infection. I’m not sure… There was something stigmatizing about it “one of the participants said.

Some women reported encounters that “modeled cultural ignorance and racist sentiment, especially in emergency rooms,” according to the study.

According to Van der Ward, there are ways to make positive changes, such as developing an outreach plan to help people get access to technology for medical appointments, particularly in places where internet connectivity is scarce, and recruiting Indigenous patient liaison workers who can act as patient advocates to help build confidence in the medical system.