Derry doctor Mukesh Chugh laments 'deplorable' racism identified in survey

A Derry doctor has lamented ‘deplorable’ levels of racism identified in a BMA survey of medics from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Dr. Mukesh Chugh, a Consultant Anaesthetist at Altnagelvin, said the ‘Racism in Medicine’ report highlighted the levels of bigotry often experienced by colleagues.

“I welcome the findings on the recent survey on racial discrimination within medicine across the health and social care system. It is deplorable that ethnic minority doctors continue to face racism at work. Frequent instances of bullying and harassment, blocks on progression and unfair investigations destroy careers and lives,” he said. Dozens of doctors from across the north contributed to the survey.

One African locum doctor gave the following testimony: “I have the fortune of passing as English due to my accent but since I studied abroad – the second people find out where I studied their approach/demeanour changes regarding my competence...constantly justifying your presence – your right to belong – as a professional is mentally taxing and to an extent tiring to the point where over time I have begun to let things pass as highlighting this will label me as ‘difficult’ Black man.”

Dr. Mukesh Chugh

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An Arab doctor reported: “Line manager bullying and using derogatory language. Treating the White doctors much more favourably than the Black and Asian doctors.”

And an Asian British medical student gave the following example of explicit racism:

“[Patient] asked in quite a rude way ‘so which sh**hole did you come from?’ I was stunned. I said NI. He laughed harshly and replied ‘Yeah, right. You’re from NI? What a joke.’..”

Dr. Chugh is Chair of the Ethnically Diverse Staff Network (EDSN) at the Western Trust and a Council member of the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HSCA). He said: “In the Western Trust we have established the EDSN to provide a platform for staff from diverse communities to raise and discuss issues/concerns and get support and advice.

It is a step towards creating a safe, welcoming and shared working environment but I strongly believe action was long overdue to tackle structural racism and we have many miles to walk.”

SDLP Councillor Lilian Seenoi-Barr, reacting to the BMA report, said: “The experiences detailed within this report evidence appalling and unacceptable racism that exists within our health service. It is truly shocking that among the respondents from NI, 85% had experienced racism on at least one occasion within the last two years, almost 10% higher than in GB.”