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Aboriginal Patient Navigator now available at Ashcroft Urgent and Primary Care Centre

APNs help Indigenous patients and their families access health care supports and services
An Aboriginal Patient Navigator is now available at the Ashcroft Urgent and Primary Care Centre. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)

An Aboriginal Patient Navigator (APN) position has been added to the Ashcroft Urgent and Primary Care Centre (UPCC) as of January 2023.

The APN works with clients in the community and at the UPCC, with their services available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. There are also some weekend appointments available.

The APN program was established in 2009 to support access to health care services for Aboriginal patients (Métis, Inuit, and First Nations) and their families in hospitals and communities. The Patient Navigators are a resource for helping them connect to the right services to meet their health care needs, and are a resource for other health care providers to help make health care services culturally safe and assist in connecting with Aboriginal services.

The APNs also collaborate with other health care workers in early identification and assessment of patient needs, and participate in discharge planning to strengthen patient care and independence.

The program began with one APN in Williams Lake, and has now expanded through other Interior Health communities, with the Ashcroft APN the latest addition. For patients and families, the Patient Navigator is available to help patients understand and access health services; provide connections to religious and spiritual services; and provide advocacy and emotional support. They also work as part of a multidisciplinary team to connect to services on discharge.

For other health care providers, the APN is able to provide knowledge about cultural and spiritual practices; help identify and eliminate barriers to health care services; and line Aboriginal services with non-Aboriginal services.

“Interior Health has made a commitment to reduce the gaps in health between Aboriginal people and other British Columbians,” says a statement from IH. “By helping Aboriginal people access culturally appropriate health care services earlier, Interior Health hopes to improve the health of Aboriginal people living within our health region.”

Gloria Big Sorrel Horse (Blood First Nation in Southern Alberta) was among the first APNs.

“I enjoy it,” said Gloria, speaking on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the APN program. “It’s a good experience for me because of my history. I’m a survivor of both residential schools and the ‘60s scoop’. It’s important to know this history because it impacts a lot of our First Nations people. It impacts their health, because they are fearful of institutions—and the hospital is an institution. So these patients have a lot of trust issues coming here and seeking help, especially our elders. I feel that I’m here as a support. I can advocate for them.”

Debra Donald (Simpcw First Nation), another APN, said that she has seen a lot of positive change.

“For example, the family of one of our patients who was palliative and on comfort measures was quite spiritual and cultural,” said Debra. “They wanted to have a smudge and an end-of-life ceremony in hospital. I wasn’t on shift but management and medical staff knew how to facilitate that process.

“They were willing and able to do what they needed to allow that family to practise their cultural belief and spirituality. The family appreciated that their relative was able to pass away observing First Nation customs despite being in a hospital setting.”

“The health care system can be complicated and factors such as language barriers, huge geographic distances, and cultural differences can make it even more so,” said Interior Health Board Chair Doug Cochrane in 2019. “The APNs help address barriers and improve access. This is a vital service that helps to address health disparities that Indigenous patients face when interacting with our health system.”

Appointments with the Aboriginal Patient Navigator at the Ashcroft Urgent and Primary Care Centre can be made by calling the UPCC at (250) 453-2211. To learn more about the APN service, visit the Aboriginal Patient Navigator webpage at

The Urgent and Primary Care Centre in Ashcroft operates seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day. A virtual doctor is available on weekdays, and in-person physician visits are available on Saturdays and Sundays.

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Barbara Roden

About the Author: Barbara Roden

I joined Black Press in 2012 working the Circulation desk of the Ashcroft-Cache Creek Journal and edited the paper during the summers until February 2016.
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