Genesa Greening, CEO of BC Women’s Health Foundation in Vancouver for the release of a research report titled ‘In Her Words: Women’s experience with the healthcare system in BC’ on Oct. 9, 2019. (Black Press Media photo)

WOMEN’S HEALTH

‘I felt dismissed’: Report finds gender gap within B.C.’s healthcare system

New report sheds dire light on women’s experiences with B.C.’s healthcare system

A new report is painting a dire picture of women’s access to B.C.’s medical system in which many say they had doctors overlook their symptoms, have faced challenges seeking a specific kind of healthcare and have been stigmatized.

The research findings, released Wednesday by the BC Women’s Health Foundation and Pacific Blue Cross, is offering a first-of-its-kind look into what the foundation is calling a gender gap in Canada’s healthcare system.

Findings based on consultation with women of all ages and race across the province include that roughly one-in-three don’t feel that their health needs are being met and just over half said that a physician had diminished or overlooked their symptoms at least once.

“It took me three years to receive a Lyme Disease diagnosis,” one woman told the foundation. “I was misdiagnosed by my doctor, and then dismissed by seven doctors after that, each only recommending anti-anxiety medication. But I knew deep down something was seriously wrong.”

READ MORE: B.C. women are financially stretched, alarmingly stressed: survey

Three-in-ten women reported challenges accessing healthcare that they needed within the last year. That stat rose to three quarters – or 83 per cent – of Indigenous women ages 16 to 24 reported barriers accessing care they needed.

More immigrant and Indigenous women also reported facing barriers and stigma by doctors in B.C. than other women, the report found.

“I have re-occurring pancreatis,” one woman said. “They stigmatized me as an alcoholic, but I don’t drink. I was hospitalized, my levels went up while I was in the hospital and then they apologized for accusing me of drinking. But I have tattoos, and they judge you, and that stigma follows you.”

READ MORE: Health care key to prevent women from returning to prison: UBC study

Genesa Greening, the women’s foundation CEO, said the inequitable level of care women face comes despite women making up half of the population and living four years longer than men.

Greening told a room of foundation members and the public that healthcare research on diseases has historically been based on male anatomy, despite an acknowledgment that female biology is so different. That means that the male body became the baseline for preventable illnesses.

“Both biology and social factors need to be considered,” she said, adding that it is pretty easy to see that uniformed healthcare system will cause inequalities.

More to come.

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