Social Democratic and Labour Party Health Spokesperson Colin McGrath MLA is to seek clarification from Health Minister Robin Swann following concerns that have been raised about the effectiveness of oximeters, used in the assessment of Covid-19 patients, on people of different races.
The Health Committee member’s questions follow a decision by British Health Secretary Sajid Javid to commission a review in conjunction with US officials into racial bias in medical equipment which may have had an impact on Covid-19 survival rates in BAME patients.
A previous analysis of Public Health England data demonstrated that BAME patients were two to four times more likely to die as a result of Covid-19 infections than white patients.
Colin McGrath MLA said:
“The growing body of evidence that suggests there may be systemic racial bias in health services as a result of the testing standards used in the trial, certification and production of medical equipment is deeply troubling. Over the course of the pandemic we have received report after report clearly outlining that Black, Asian and minority ethnic patients were significantly more likely to die after contracting Covid-19. If this is the result of a broader racial bias relating to medical equipment then it must be addressed immediately.
“This is made worse by the fact that health researchers have been highlighting these problems in respected medical journals for years, particularly observed racial biases in pulse oximetry which has been used extensively in the assessment of Covid-19 patients.
“I have submitted an urgent question to the Health Minister about the use of oximetry testing in Northern Ireland and his plans to review the impact of racial bias in our health service. The unavoidable and chilling question here is whether or not BAME patients were allowed to die needlessly because the concerns about medical equipment were not addressed. People deserve the truth.”