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Removing barriers facing Indigenous cancer patients in Saskatchewan

University of Saskatchewan researcher Dr. Gary Groot says some Indigenous patients encounter systemic and racial barriers while accessing health care.
University of Saskatchewan researcher Dr. Gary Groot says some Indigenous patients encounter systemic and racial barriers while accessing health care. University of Saskatchewan / Supplied

A University of Saskatchewan (U of S) researcher is convinced more needs to be done to support Indigenous cancer patients in the province.

Dr. Gary Groot, a clinical professor in surgery, said some patients encounter systemic and racial barriers while accessing health care.

READ MORE: Indigenous epilepsy rate double the Canadian average

One patient described Saskatchewan’s cancer care system to Groot as complicated, foreign and often inhospitable.

A pilot research program is trying to gain a deeper understanding of those unique barriers so cancer services can be redesigned from the user’s perspective.

Thirty people will be accompanied by an Indigenous patient navigator as they travel through the health system from diagnosis to their return home.

READ MORE: Saskatoon scientist receives 3 CIHR grants for cancer research

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Groot also wants to raise awareness among health care providers about the importance of creating culturally appropriate supports for Indigenous patients.

“As I’ve got to know the Indigenous community better, and I start to understand how they see the world … my capacity and ability to have ideal interactions with them as a care provider has increased significantly,” he said in a press release.

“If I can do that I believe others can do that as well.”

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The project involves several northern communities such as Cumberland House and Black Lake. Groot is also collaborating with the Prince Albert Grand Council and the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan.

His $120,000 grant from the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation is among nine awarded to U of S researchers on June 29.