AHS seeks to eliminate Indigenous health-care barriers with new patient navigator

Blood Tribe member and registered nurse Chloe Crosschild has been named the first Indigenous Patient Navigator with Alberta Health Services.

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“I heard about the role and I saw an opportunity for Indigenous peoples in southern Alberta to have that opportunity to receive equitable care in a culturally safe manner,” Crosschild said. “And I wanted to be part of that.”

Crosschild will work with Indigenous patients as a liaison to facilitate trust and accessibility with areas like medical translation, health education and understanding diagnosis.

“We’re hoping to help bridge the gaps and address the barriers,” she said.

“It’s that first step to really engage with Indigenous peoples and patients and communicate with healthcare providers, look at where those gaps are, see how we can help strengthen care and enhance care that’s being given.

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“This isn’t a project where we’re going to come in and say we’re going to fix everything. We know that’s not possible. But we are hoping that this service can help facilitate in the communication between healthcare teams.”

She added that the service itself is being made as accessible as possible.

“It’s self referral, you don’t need a healthcare provider, but it can come from healthcare providers as well,” Crosschild said. “We’re also inpatient and outpatient, so we’re not just strictly in the hospital, we’re also in community.”

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Health director with the Blood Tribe Department of Health, Kash Shade, said he’s seen a number of those barriers first hand, including transportation and a lack of information about available services.

“Coordinating those services from the city back to the reserve is kind of where clients get caught in the gaps in the system,” Shade said.

He said many Blood Tribe members could benefit from the Blackfoot translations and culturally-minded care.

“[It’s crucial to] having that respect between providers, [and] addressing that knowledge gap when clients really aren’t aware of what’s going on with their health status,” Shade said.

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“I think just the education piece alone is really important for not only southern Alberta, but for the entire province, and Canada really.”

AHS chief zone officer for the South Zone, Dr. Katherine Chubbs, said Wednesday the project is set to expand.

“This is actually a research-funded initiative, so we got a big research grant about two years ago,” Chubbs explained. “The intention of the funder is that we take the learnings from this initiative and spread it across Alberta and beyond. So we actually have people on our committee who are not from this province to learn from it.”

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The research is also two-fold.

“The other half of the project was really to test out a co-design model,” Chubbs said. “So how do you work effectively with indigenous communities to realize shared goals.”

Chubbs added that feedback from the numerous First Nations and Inuit collaborators on the project has been positive.

“They’ve said this is the single biggest best collaboration they’ve ever done in the history of Alberta Health Services in the south zone,” Chubbs said.

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The project team will be seeking feedback from patients and providers to ensure the ongoing improvement of care outcomes for Indigenous peoples.

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