An investigation into the death of an Aklavik elder who died of a stroke after being mistaken for drunk is recommending the Northwest Territories implement mandatory cultural safety training for all health care workers.

Papik, 68, of Aklavik, died last August after he suffered a massive stroke. His niece said staff at his elders' home and at the Aklavik health centre wouldn't treat her uncle because they mistook him for being drunk.

She said it was six hours before a medevac was arranged to take him to Inuvik. After being assessed in Inuvik he was sent on to Yellowknife, but by the time he reached Stanton Territorial Hospital, he was brain dead.

The N.W.T. Department of Health and Social Services ordered an external investigation, which was expected to be completed last November. The territorial government hasn't released details on the reviewer's findings but did release the 16 recommendations from the report on Monday.

Among them is cultural safety training for all health care workers, with content designed and delivered in partnership with the Indigenous community.

"Cultural safety training should be grounded in an anti-oppression framework and include concepts of unconscious and perception bias (racism), Indigenous view of family including next of kin," says the recommendation. 

It adds this is in keeping with one of the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Report.

Other recommendations include:

  • training community home support workers to recognize acute medical conditions;
  • having trained nurses oversee home care programs and community home support workers;
  • providing first responder training in Aklavik to ensure standard medical care is provided at the earliest opportunity;
  • reviewing clinical practice guidelines as it relates to stroke and ensure that all the community nurses follow it
  • establishing stroke protocols including directly transporting the patient to the Stanton Hospital in Yellowknife if there is a high suspicion of stroke for appropriate treatment in a timely manner; and 
  • implementing a process to respond to patient and family concerns related to the care that they receive within the health care system.

In a news release, Health Minister Glen Abernethy said many of the recommendations align with work already being done by the department and health and social service authorities on "cultural competence" and home care, staff training and communication protocols.

He said he will direct the department and the HSSAs to review the recommendations and take action where appropriate.

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