To address concerns about disruptions in the continuity of health care delivered to residents in three remote aboriginal communities in northern Ontario, Canada, the local health authority initiated a study in collaboration with the department of Health Canada responsible for ensuring that aboriginal reserves receive mandatory health services, and an inter-disciplinary team of researchers from two universities. The study focussed on the delivery of oncology, diabetes and mental health care, specifically, as well as systems issues such as recruitment and retention of health human resources and financial costs. The paper discusses the procedures involved, the benefits derived and the challenges encountered in doing this as a community driven participatory action research project. It also summarizes the findings that led to community formulated policy and program recommendations.
Many of Canada's northern First Nation communities experience difficulty recruiting and retaining appropriate nursing staff and must rely on relief nurses for short-term coverage. The latter often are not adequately prepared for the demanding nature of the practice. This study examined the consequences of nursing turnover on the continuity of care provided to residents of three Ojibway communities in northern Ontario. The findings are based on a review of 135 charts of oncology, diabetes, and mental health clients, and on interviews with 30 professional and paraprofessional health-care providers who served the communities. Nursing turnover is shown to detrimentally affect communications, medications management, and the range of services offered; it also results in compromised follow-up, client disengagement, illness exacerbation, and an added burden of care for family and community members.