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Aboriginal Support Workers provide personalized help for health care

By Angela Brown, Portage Daily Graphic

Regional Health Authority -- Central Manitoba Inc. is continuing with its efforts to provide aboriginal clients specialized assistance for their health- care needs through the help of the RHA's Aboriginal Support Workers.

"We are a permanent service, based at the Portage hospital," said Doretta Harris, regional director of Aboriginal Health Services. "We are here to assist to improve our health-care system, so it better meets the needs of the First Nation, Metis and Inuit people."

The Support Workers can be identified by their navy blue uniforms, which have both the RHA logo and the Aboriginal Health insignia on them.

Harris said the RHA offers the services of its Aboriginal Support Workers to assist clients to successfully navigate the health-care system.

"(It's) so our clients will have their own self-defined health needs met," she said. "This is important because our services provide culturally-appropriate health-care services," added Harris. "It's something that is very matched to aboriginal-peoples' needs -- First Nation, Metis and Inuit."

The Support Workers are there to help clients to better access and navigate the health-care system.

"We help with language interpretation," added Harris. "A lot of times English is not their first language. In our area it would be Ojibway or Dakota. We help with traditional healing practices, such as smudges -- whatever they request, either with a patient or with a family."

The Aboriginal Support Workers also collaborate with other health services providers, as part of a multi-disciplinary team.

"This way we are able to provide a consistent level of health care for that patient," Harris said.

As well, the Aboriginal Support Workers want to be as accessible as possible to clients.

"We help not only the patients and the patients' families, but the health staff as well," said Harris. "We are there to support the health staff."

Information about Aboriginal Health Services is also now included the Central RHA's website, as another resource for the aboriginal community.

There are two full-time Aboriginal Support Workers at Portage's hospital currently who are able to provide their support seven days a week. Once a week the workers also visit the local personal care homes to also offer their services to residents there.

See more in Portage Daily Graphic.

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