January 10, 2017 6:49 pm
Updated: January 11, 2017 10:47 am

NaviCare virtual centre aims to help NB children with complex health needs

Navigating the health care system can be complicated and frustrating, even more so for families of children with complex needs. As Global's Andrew Cromwell reports a new service has been launched aimed at lessening that burden.

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A new virtual centre has been launched in New Brunswick with the aim of helping children with complex health care needs.

READ MORE: Improvements coming to New Brunswick primary health care services

The centre, called Navicare/SoinsNavi, will help young patients and their families navigate what is often considered a complicated “maze of health care needs.”

Details were announced at a news conference in Saint John on Tuesday.

Jennifer Belyea is the program coordinator and the mother of a 16-year-old son who has Angelman Syndrome, a genetic disorder than can cause various health issues. She said navigating the health care system can be difficult for a young parent.

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“It was a constant, a constant struggle and in the beginning, especially when you’re a young mom, you don’t really have the credibility built up with the health care professionals yet,” Belyea said.

The free service features a 1-800 number (1-888-641-1977) that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

READ MORE: 3.4 million Canadians had unmet health care needs in 2014: report

In support of the program, the New Brunswick Children’s Foundation is providing $750,000 dollars in funding.

Belyea said it should prove to be a big help for families.

“For instance they may need peer support … just having that person on the other end of the phone who they know is looking out for resources for them,” Belyea said.

Navicare is the brainchild of researchers Rima Azar of Mount Allison University and Shelley Doucet of the University of New Brunswick Saint John.

A unique part of the service is a patient navigator, a fully bilingual registered nurse from Moncton, who will act as an advocate for children and their families.

Along with helping families, the navigator can also be an important resource to care teams.

“They often don’t know what services and programs are currently available because programs and services are changing so frequently,” Doucet said. “So what we’re finding is that they actually need education and support in order to be able to support children and families around what services and resources are available.”

University officials call it a game changer.

“We have here a program that will help families who are really desperately searching for answers, find those answers,” said UNB president Eddy Campbell.

Funding is set to last over a three year period at which point it will be re-evaluated.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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