Alberta researchers study emergency department experience of First Nations members

A new research project will shed light on the quality of care First Nations peoples receive in emergency departments across Alberta.

Study to find out why healthcare outcomes are lower for Indigenous patients

Parents should be prepared for longer wait times in the emergency room at B.C. Children's Hospital during the holiday season. (CBC)

A new research project will shed light on the quality of care First Nations peoples receive in emergency departments across Alberta. 

Earlier studies have shown that across the country, healthcare outcomes are lower for Indigenous peoples compared to non-Indigenous peoples.

Patrick McLane, of the University of Alberta and Alberta Health Services, and Bonnie Healy, with Alberta First Nations Information Governance Centre, are trying to find out why. 

The team started working together more than a year ago, but last week received a $554,626 federal grant to conduct a three-year study that delves deeper into some of the concerns of First Nations patients. 

"Every now and again as health service providers, we need to check ourselves," said Healy, a nurse by trade and a member of the Blood Tribe in southern Alberta. 

"I think we all go into those systems with well intentions, but things happen in those environments and you get conditioned and and you don't even know they're happening."

Twice as many First Nations visitors

The Alberta First Nations Governance Information Centre has been collecting First Nations healthcare data since 2016.

It shows that throughout the province, First Nations members visit emergency departments at nearly twice the rate of non-First Nations peoples, most commonly for injuries or respiratory diseases.

A recent study on First Nations patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease found some leave emergency departments without even being seen.

"We didn't know why," said McLane, noting the latest research project will look into that.

"We're really wanting to know more of the deeper-level experiences," Healy said.

"What we're really trying to do is develop some trust and communication and really letting people tell their stories, not interrogating them."

Addressing community concerns 

While the researchers will work with physicians and clinicians, they will also take questions from First Nations community members. 

McLane said an important part of the project will be working toward reconciliation, addressing any concerns that may exist around marginalization and discrimination. 

McLane and Healy are interested in urban, rural and remote experiences.

They're partnering with Maskwacis Health Services, Yellowhead Tribal Council and the Treaty 8 health organization. 



With files from Madeleine Cummings