A medical college has apologised “unreservedly” after it was accused of dismissing an account of institutional racism by Australia’s first and only Indigenous ophthalmologist.
Kris Rallah-Baker wrote an article in Insight magazine last month which highlighted the extreme under-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in his field.
He also described his experiences of “racism, degradation, training delays, bullying, harassment and racial vilification” while training to become an ophthalmologist.
David Andrews, the CEO of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO), wrote a letter to the editor in response.
He said: “While it is true that more Indigenous ophthalmologists would be a positive step, it is not true that only Indigenous ophthalmologists can be dedicated to, and culturally sensitive in, providing excellent eye health services.”
In an open letter, a group of 37 Indigenous health advocates said the response “discounted and dismissed” Dr Rallah-Baker’s experiences without investigation.
They also suggested that failure to address racism in the healthcare system might also have a negative impact on Indigenous patients.
Dr Rallah-Baker met with senior representatives from RANZCO at a conference last weekend “with the intention of working together for a better future.”
Since then, he and the medical college issued a joint statement about working together to create a “positive environment” for Indigenous trainees.
“We had a very positive meeting and the College acknowledges and apologises unreservedly for any distress experienced by Dr Rallah-Baker and his family including in relation to our recent communications in the press,” they said.
“The RANZCO Board realises that its communication could and should have been better and more understanding of Dr Rallah-Baker’s experience. We confirm our desire to work together to ensure the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders doctors in the training program and to improve health outcomes in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.”