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Controversial Health Authority Apologizes After Elderly Sikh's Beard Cut


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Health authority apologizes after elderly Sikh's beard cut

Health authority apologizes after elderly Sikh's beard cut

VANCOUVER — An elderly Sikh man had his beard cut off weeks before he died while he was in a long-term health-care facility in New Westminster.And now the World Sikh Organization of Canada is demanding that the president and CEO of the Fraser Health Authority implement a formal education training program for all its staff.

Unshorn hair and beards are one of the five articles of faith for baptized Sikhs.

It was the second time such an incident has occurred at health facilities in the Fraser Health region in the past 18 months,

"It is unacceptable that an incident like this can still take place at Fraser Health," said Gian Singh Sandhu, the WOS's senior policy adviser. "It's taken us by surprise and obviously causes a shock through the community."

Fraser Health Authority president and CEO Dr. Nigel Murray appeared on a Punjabi radio station, Red FM, to apologize Wednesday after the incident became public.

"Dr. Murray did apologize on behalf of the entire organization, which I think is significant," said Fraser Health spokesman David Plug. "The nurse thought that she had more consent than she actually did from the family. It was a terribly unfortunate incident."

The WSO said that Fraser Health must do more than apologize and take concrete steps to ensure that it never happens again, especially since it's the second such incident in its region.

"It's nice that a CEO goes on Punjabi radio to calm the community down because (that's) good," said Sandhu. "But on the other hand, an apology is one thing. What are they doing so this thing does not reoccur?

"Further prevention is a key here. That's what needs to happen here. They need to put some education-training programs in place and assure the community that it doesn't happen again. It has to come from the CEO and the board, I suppose, to exactly implement the training program."

Sandhu pointed out that the incident, which happened early this month, followed a similar incident that occurred at Royal Columbian Hospital on Nov. 27, 2008.

The WSO has offered its assistance to Fraser Health for a formal training program. Sandhu said a similar offer was rejected after the Royal Columbian incident.

"In order to retain the community's support and confidence, Fraser Health needs to make sure that an incident like this is never repeated," said WSO president Prem Singh Vinning.



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