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Qual Health Res. 2011 Mar;21(3):333-48. doi: 10.1177/1049732310385824. Epub 2010 Nov 12.

Access to primary care from the perspective of Aboriginal patients at an urban emergency department.

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  • 1School of Nursing, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. annette.browne@nursing.ubc.ca


In this article, we discuss findings from an ethnographic study in which we explored experiences of access to primary care services from the perspective of Aboriginal people seeking care at an emergency department (ED) located in a large Canadian city. Data were collected over 20 months of immersion in the ED, and included participant observation and in-depth interviews with 44 patients triaged as stable and nonurgent, most of whom were living in poverty and residing in the inner city. Three themes in the findings are discussed: (a) anticipating providers' assumptions; (b) seeking help for chronic pain; and (c) use of the ED as a reflection of social suffering. Implications of these findings are discussed in relation to the role of the ED as well as the broader primary care sector in responding to the needs of patients affected by poverty, racialization, and other forms of disadvantage.

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