Racial biases in the Canadian healthcare system make long-term COVID diagnoses much more difficult, experts say.
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Over the past two years, several racialized people struggling with symptoms of what appears to be long-lasting COVID have faced racial bias from the Canadian medical profession, according to an article by the Globe and Mail.
Tracey Thompson, for example, developed symptoms several months after her suspected COVID-19 infection in March 2020: weakness, difficulty breathing, cardiac arrhythmia.
To her relief, several doctors took her ailments seriously, saying something was wrong.
This feeling, however, was short-lived. For the cardiologist in charge of the file, the long COVID was not to blame in this story. Rather, she suspected that Mr.me Thompson were caused by cocaine use.
Mme Thompson, who is black, was surprised by this assumption. It is that she does not consume drugs, nor even alcohol or coffee.
In the months that followed, she learned that other black women had also experienced racial bias when they exhibited symptoms of long-term COVID, such as joint pain and fatigue.
“You were really in the category of ‘I’m sure they’re just trying to get drugs’ or ‘They don’t want to work,'” Ms.me Thompson.
People of color living with long-term COVID claimed their symptoms were dismissed as products of anxiety, but Mme Thompson said there was an added layer of skepticism toward black patients.
“I think it affected and impacted my ability to get care in a way that we don’t like to talk about in Canada,” she said.
These stories about racial bias in the Canadian medical system have some researchers calling for more diversity in studies of the long-term effects of COVID-19.
Understanding long-lasting COVID in Canada rests in large part on which patients have the best access to Canadian health care, explained Sonia Anand, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at McMaster University.
“If we don’t hear from people who may have never even told a primary care doctor they have symptoms, then we’re missing out,” she lamented.
In 2020, a report by the Alliance for Healthy Communities, Toronto, summarized the many challenges Black Canadians face in obtaining care. Another study published in January in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that in Alberta, First Nations patients were less likely to have their symptoms rated as severe by ED triage nurses.
“It may reflect systemic racism, stereotyping and potentially other factors,” the study authors wrote.