An audit conducted by the Health Performance Council (HPC) has found evidence of 'institutional racism' in health networks across South Australia, including the Upper Spencer Gulf.
The damning report found 'very high' evidence of racism in all of the state's Local Health Networks (LHNs), bar the Women's and Children's network which was ranked as 'moderate'.
The Flinders and Upper North LHN, which covers Whyalla and Port Augusta, and the Yorke and Upper North LHN, which covers Port Pirie, were both placed in the 'very high' category.
The issue is particularly relevant in Port Augusta, where 20 per cent of the town's population are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent.
The report issued by the HPC also states that the audit was initiated after recommendations to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were, according to the Labor Party, ignored by the Health Minister in 2018.
"In the Government's formal response [of mid-2019] ... SA Health made no comment on several of our items of Ministerial advice..." claims the report on page 5.
"We inferred from the lack of comments that these components of our Ministerial advice had not been agreed by SA Health on behalf of the Government."
Those recommendations included workplace audits to identify racism and discrimination, increased Aboriginal representation across health leadership, and improving record-keeping of Aboriginal presentations to hospitals.
Aboriginal Affairs Shadow Minister Kyam Maher said it was 'inexcusable' that a modern health system could be plagued with institutional racism.
"How can the Government expect to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal people if the systems meant to treat and support them are inherently racist?" he said.
SA Health published a response to the report in which it notes 'the seriousness of this conclusion and will consider the recommendations of the Health Performance Council to inform an appropriate response'.
However, SA Health also claimed the council had 'not considered the full breadth of the activities and responses within Local Health Networks' by relying on 'published information only'.
"Considering the Local Health Networks in isolation from broader health system and state-government strategy and policy produces a significant gap in the Health Performance Council's analysis," they said.
In a communique to SA Health staff, Department for Health Chief Executive Dr Chris McGowan said there was 'no place for racism in our organisation'.
"However, in light of the HPC review being undertaken as a desktop analysis, I would also like acknowledge the vast strides that the LHNs and the Department have made in recent years towards addressing the inequities faced by Aboriginal people and reducing the gap in health outcomes," he said.
"Each LHN is required to have at least one member with expertise, knowledge or experience in Aboriginal health as an integral part of their Governing Board.
"We have a number of important strategies, including the Aboriginal Workforce Framework and the Aboriginal Cultural Learning Framework, which will continue to drive reform in this area."
SA Health are currently developing a new Aboriginal Health Care Framework to provide an 'effective benchmark' to measure contributions toward closing the gap on health disparity between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.
The HPC review is believed to have been performed as a desktop analysis.
Health Minister Stephen Wade said the government was working to improve its health services and ensure they welcomed all South Australians.
"Our hospital networks are introducing a range of initiatives to promote cultural change and all boards have at least one member with expertise, knowledge or experience relating to Aboriginal health," he said.