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Numerous programs in place to serve aboriginals, Sinclair inquest told

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Aboriginal patient numbers are high in Winnipeg hospitals so the Health Sciences Centre and Winnipeg Regional Health Authority have numerous programs to help both aboriginal patients and employees.

Dr. Catherine Cook, the WRHA's Vice President of population and aboriginal health, said upwards of 60 per cent of patients at some facilities or programs are aboriginal.

Cook said at the high end is kidney dialysis but there are large numbers of aboriginal patients in other areas of the hospitals.

"Anecdotally 40 to 60 per cent of our wards have aboriginal people," she told an inquest today looking into Brian Sinclair's death in the HSC's emergency waiting room.

Cook said the aboriginal health program helps First Nation, Inuit and Métis patients at hospitals throughout the city access interpreters and elders, as well as helping advocate for them and assisting in discharge planning.

As well, Cook said the WRHA has programs to conduct cultural awareness seminars for staff as well as helping hire and retain aboriginal employees.

Cook said in 2003 aboriginal employees represented 16 per cent of people hired and they submitted 11 per cent of the total resumes received.

"There is a specific focus on recruiting aboriginal staff and employees in areas where a greater number of aboriginals are seeking care," she said.

Pointing to studies, Cook said "aboriginal patients are more comfortable receiving care from aboriginal health care workers."

Sinclair, 45, died on Sept. 21, 2008, after coming to the HSC's ER and not being seen.

Sinclair was discovered unresponsive in the waiting room 34 hours after he arrived with a blocked urinary catheter. He died of a treatable bladder infection.

An autopsy determined he may have been dead for up to seven hours before he was rushed into the ER treatment area.

Kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

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