Navigating Canada’s health care system can be an overwhelming experience. Add to that cultural differences and language barriers and the task becomes insurmountable for many indigenous patients, who often arrive from more remote northern locations for treatment.
An Imperial funded program is helping to remove these barriers and improve indigenous people’s access to health services in the Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) region. The Aboriginal Patient Navigator (APN) program, a partnership between the VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation, aims to improve health care and build more cultural competency in the health care system.
Through the program, VCH staff known as Aboriginal Patient Navigators (Navigators) provide referral, advocacy and support to indigenous patients to ensure access to appropriate health care and community services. These Navigators combine their knowledge of medical terminology and treatment with indigenous traditions to deliver excellence in health care while respecting cultural differences.
Imperial has provided $450,000 since 2013 to help build and expand the Aboriginal Patient Navigator program.
Now funded by the Federal government, the APN program has continued to grow and expand. New program features/accomplishments in 2016 included:
- Trained 150 VCH staff on a tailored curriculum which includes a history of colonization, self-reflection and understanding of privilege, as well as an overview of VCH’s cultural competency policy and its application.
- Ensured a consistent and ongoing presence of an Elder at VCH facilities to provide cultural and spiritual support to staff and patients.
- Provided comfort kits for indigenous patients in VCH hospitals. Kits include food, blankets, medicine bags and other comforts.
- Launched a poster campaign highlighting cultural safety champions within VCH.
Items in development for 2017:
- Creation of a sacred spaces document that lists all sacred spaces and gathering places in VCH facilities. The document will be provided to indigenous patients and their families.
- Development of a five minute video outlining the importance of cultural safety at VCH – included in VCH’s new employee orientation.
- Development of a cultural protocols manual for VCH staff caring for indigenous patients.
Learn more about VCH and the APN program.