The Colour of Heathcare


stetoscopeThe flu season is upon us and you can get more information about it than you can blow your nose at. But when you are in the grips of the flu and you are feeling like the Grim Reaper is rapping at your door, do you care if the people making decisions about your healthcare in hospitals look or sound like you? A report by the DiverseCity, a project of the Maytree Foundation and CivicAction, says you should.

The report examined diversity — race, gender, disability and sexual orientation —  on boards and in senior management of health care institutions in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Its findings are enlightening and but may also be a cautionary tale about what happens when institutions fail to to take full advantage of diverse perspectives and talents.

The GTA is arguably the most culturally diverse regions in North America. In 2011, 47% of the population were visible minorities and 46% were born outside of Canada. In some parts of the region so-called “visible minorities” are in fact “visible majorities.” For example, visible minorities make up
66% of Brampton’s population, and 72% of Markham’s.

Healthcare diversity countsYet the study found that visible minorities in decision-making positions in hospitals and in other healthcare institutions are severely under-represented.

Only 16% of those in senior management positions and 14% of board members were  visible minorities. Four in ten institutions reported no visible minorities in senior management positions, as did nearly one-fifth of boards.

Visible minorities  are on the front lines of Ontario’s healthcare system as nurses;  those from the Philippines and India account for a significant proportion. Yet they are under-represented in the leadership of hospitals.

diverse nurse and patientNurses and other caregivers know that good health care requires a high level of intercultural competence, especially when interacting with patients from diverse cultural backgrounds. They need to be as diverse as the patients they are caring for. Healthcare leaders could learn a thing or two — or more – from nurses.

The Study also Found:

  • Women make up the majority (61%) of senior management positions, and 40% of governance board members.
  • Few people with a disability are in leadership positions –  only 1% of leaders were reported to be people living with a disability.
  • Few  (3-4%) lesbian, gay, bisexual or queer (LGBQ) individuals are in leadership positions.

The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario provides these guidelines for delivering culturally competent healthcare to patients.

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