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Kelowna’s Sikh community accuses Interior Health of discrimination

The president of Gurdwara Guru Amardas Darbar Sikh Society has written to Premier David Eby

Allegations of harassment and discrimination have been levelled at Interior Health (IH) by Kelowna’s Sikh community.

A letter sent to Premier David Eby, from the president of the Gurdwara Guru Amardas Darbar Sikh Society, says the situation involves Dr. Malvinder Hoonjan.

“We have lost confidence in Interior Health and seek your intervention in this matter immediately,” writes Surinder Singh Shergill.

He states safe and quality healthcare should include a healthy workplace culture free from toxicity and discrimination.

“As Sikhs, our faith mandates us to address injustice, inequity, and inequality, and we cannot stand by while Dr. Hoonjan faces unjust treatment.”

Shergill refers to several articles over the years that outline how Dr. Hoonjan, a retinal surgeon in Kamloops since 2010, had his privileges revoked in 2019 when all retinal surgical services were moved to Kelowna.

“Not only did the senior executive leadership improperly cancel Dr. Hoonjan’s privileges, but self-interested physicians were allowed to determine staffing needs, ultimately treating public resources as their own personal fiefdom,” Shergill adds.

His letter notes that the BC Hospital Appeal Board judged in favour of Dr. Hoonjan, ordering IH to onboard him at Kelowna General Hospital (KGH).

It also points out that IH was reprimanded for not following an order to have a re-introduction plan for Dr. Hoonjan completed within 60 days.

“How can one clinician stand up to a multi-billion-dollar organization with the resources to retain lawyers and chase people out of town,” Shergill asks. “We refuse to accept complacency in the face of such injustice.”

Shergill says the Society has been monitoring this situation for several years, hoping for a fair resolution. He adds Dr. Hoonjan has not been involved or requested the Society’s involvement.

Shergill also notes the province’s quick action to address allegations of racism in emergency departments towards Indigenous patients and asks for similar urgency in investigating the matter involving Dr. Hoonjan.

The letter concludes with a request for Eby to meet with Kelowna’s Sikh community in person.

“Your attention to this matter is crucial, and we believe that a personal discussion will convey the gravity of the situation and our community’s concerns,” Shergill adds.

Interior Health provided the following statement to Back Press:

Interior Health has a zero-tolerance for racism, and this is outlined in our anti-racism policy. We have responded to the Gurdwara Guru Amardas Darbar Sikh Society and would be happy to meet with them. Interior Health has received and respects the decision reached by the Hospital Appeals Board, and we can confirm Dr. Hoonjan is working in our surgical department at Kelowna General Hospital. Due to ongoing matters before the courts, IH is not able to speak to further information in this case.

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Gary Barnes

About the Author: Gary Barnes

Journalist and broadcaster for three decades.
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