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Interlake-Eastern RHA extends thanks to volunteers

This year for National Volunteer Appreciation Week (April 14-20), Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority is acknowledging 343 people from around the region who are donating their time as volunteers in health facilities and programs.

The theme for volunteer appreciation is “Be in the moment, because every moment counts.”

“This theme captures the notion that life is made up of moments and the ones we spend helping others are some of the most meaningful and rewarding,” says Interlake-Eastern RHA CEO, Marion Ellis. “Volunteers are an important part of the region’s work every day of the year. Thank you.”

On behalf of residents of the region, IERHA’s board chair, Michele Polinuk extends her thanks to volunteers.

“The IERHA board of directors thanks and applauds each volunteer for their tireless service throughout the year,” says Michele Polinuk, Interlake-Eastern RHA  board chair, “If you, or someone you know is looking to make a difference in the community and bring a little joy into our staff, patients and residents’ lives, we have opportunities for you.”

Anyone interested in volunteering with the region can choose from several opportunities. Personal care home resident and patient support includes reading, activities and crafts, assisting with meal times and transportation and more. The palliative care program is seeking volunteers for this year’s annual grief camp, held at Camp Arnes, for children that runs May 31-June 2.

To identify interest in volunteering for Camp Stepping Stones please contact Barb Ramsay, Interlake-Eastern RHA’s volunteer coordinator, [email protected], 1-855-494-7369.

The spiritual care program is running another ‘Spirit of Caring’ course in Stonewall Hospital (Multipurpse Room A & B ) to train people who want to volunteer and/or learn more about spiritual health, dying and death, spiritual development and trauma and crisis. The course takes place every Friday from 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.  from April 26 to June 28. Additional training dates and locations will be identified for the fall as well.

To identify interest in signing up for the ‘Spirit of Caring’ course please contact Ferdinand Funk, Regional Spiritual Health Services Coordinator by phoning 204-461-3414 or emailing [email protected] by April 24, 2024.

Learn more about other volunteer opportunities here:

Be in the moment, because every moment counts

Gerry Gienke, 76, has been volunteering at Kin Place Personal Care Home for 13 years. He started when his father-in-law, Andrew Paterson was a resident and he continued volunteering after Andrew passed 10 years ago. Gerry runs the bingo for 15 to 20 residents at Kin Place and one resident calls him the “Bingo Man” when she sees him in the hall.

“Lots of people in personal care homes have great stories and personalities. Sometimes they tell you the same story more than once but you get used to that – I always act like it’s the first time I’m hearing it,” Gerry said.

His favourite parts of volunteering have a lot to do with the connections he makes.

“I like the people and the staff. The staff keep me informed on what’s happening with the residents. I tell people to give volunteering in a personal care home a chance – you may be pleasantly surprised by the people. If you like talking to people and chatting I think you will really enjoy it like I do.”

Please email [email protected] if you are having issues reaching a facility.

Thank you for your understanding as we work to address the issue.

Due to a water leak found in the crawl space of the dialysis unit of Ashern Lakeshore General Hospital yesterday evening, March 12th 2024, dialysis patients will be receiving treatment at alternate facilities. No other programs in Ashern are affected by this. Resumption of dialysis services in Ashern is still to be determined.

Julene Sawatzky, regional lead for human resources for Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority (IERHA), said strong connections with education institutes are crucial to stabilize staffing.

“Working in health care has to become more accessible, so expanding the number of ways that people can enter the health workforce is critical,” she said.

“Since many health careers require training by certifying bodies — including registered nurse, licensed practical nurse (LPN) and certified health-care aide —we have cultivated strong working relationships with post-secondary institutions working in the region. Currently we’re working with Assiniboine Community College and Red River College Polytechnic. University of Manitoba is also a major partner for registered nurses, where a key focus is increasing practicum placements in the region.”

In addition, community-based organizations like Fieldstone Ventures education and training centre are working to connect communities to local post-secondary training.

“The partnership between Fieldstone Ventures and the community of Arborg would be a key example that has successfully brought licensed practical nursing and certified health-care aide training to that part of the northwest part of the region,” Sawatzky said.

“Similarly, the community of Beausejour and surrounding municipalities have worked to secure a building and have licensed practical nursing and certified health-care aide training brought to their community through Assiniboine Community College’s rotating LPN training. This IERHA-dedicated training is wrapping up in Arborg after graduating two consecutive classes of LPNs.”

In spite of these programs, Sawatzky said some people in local communities across the region still face barriers to gain employment in health care.

“Travel to a different community may not be an option and taking any time off from paid employment may not be feasible. For this reason, starting in June 2023, we piloted a community-based health-care aide micro-credential on-the-job training opportunity in five communities as a way of removing barriers that many face in joining the health workforce,” she said.

“This pilot project brought training and employment opportunities to the communities of Fisher Branch, MASH (Manigotagan, Agaming, Seymourville, Hollow Water First Nation), Selkirk, Lake Manitoba First Nation and Lac du Bonnet. Among those five communities, 34 individuals gained training and an opportunity to work in their community in a personal care home or in home care.”

For those interested in health-care education, here are a few options close to home provided by some of the training institutions that are currently in collaboration with IERHA.

Fieldstone Ventures

Fieldstone Ventures aims to facilitate skills development and training opportunities for adults in the northwest Interlake region. For more than two decades, Fieldstone Ventures has worked with communities all the way from St. Laurent to Dauphin River.

“We travel to all the communities within our region and the five First Nations when time permits. In the last six years, we have moved over to the Arborg area with the intentions of offering the same services there as what is offered here along Highway 6,” Fieldstone Ventures manager Julie Bergner said.

“The services we provide are not available north of Selkirk, so we felt it a fit to join in with Arborg when approached on the opportunity to bring LPN training to the area.”

Over the past four years, Fieldstone Ventures, ACC, community representatives and IERHA have partnered on the LPN program locally. Since the Central Interlake Training Facility opened in Arborg, one LPN training program has concluded and the second is now underway with graduation expected to occur this spring. Of the 25 graduates from the first course offering, 16 took positions with IERHA.

“We work back and forth on identifying what positions need to be filled and constantly work on bringing training to the region locally. The staff at IERHA have been amazing to work with,” Bergner said.

“We also ran a successful health-care aide program in 2016-17, which saw 16 students graduate and all 16 obtaining work in the area. The training facility is within a 100-kilometre radius of the areas we serve so it can be accessed by people within our catchment area. We currently have seven students in the LPN training in Arborg who reside on the west side, with 15 students in the class in total.”

When it comes to community partnerships, Bergner said they’re all working towards the same goal — to bring training and employed personnel to the area.

“Having a diversified board of directors helps get the message out. Our board of directors is comprised of different organizations, including IERHA and one member from each of the municipal councils, as well as the Lakeshore School Division,” she said.

“We are funded through Manitoba Jobs & Skills Development Centre to provide the employment assistance services to the regions, so we follow their guidelines when it comes to training and employment.”

Fieldstone Ventures is always seeking new board members, and all board meetings are open to the public.

“Most of the members now are from the Ashern area. We would welcome new members from surrounding communities. This we feel would benefit their groups as well. We are not limited to only training in Ashern or Arborg,” she said. “If we can find suitable facilities in other locations, we would entertain bringing training there also.”  

Fieldstone Ventures tries to offer courses that are in demand, including those to train nursing and health-care aides.

“We offered a paramedic training course in 2010 and this is something we are looking at again. In most cases, the training we offer through the colleges and universities must meet the labour market demand,” Bergner said.

“If the jobs are not available at the end of training, we will not bring it forward. We work with IERHA and Manitoba Jobs & Skills Development Centre from Selkirk to determine the needs and go from there.”

Anyone looking for information on training through Fieldstone Ventures can call their office at 204-768-3797. Bergner said they’re always open to training suggestions.

Anyone looking for information on training through Fieldstone Ventures can call their office at 204-768-3797. Bergner said they’re always open to training suggestions.

Assiniboine Community College

Similarly, Assiniboine Community College aims to transform lives and strengthen Manitoba through applied education and research — including opportunities in local communities.

“Assiniboine Community College is very much about bringing education closer to home in all rural Manitoba communities, and, as such, works in partnership with industry to meet labour market demand,” said Suzanne Nicolas, dean of nursing at Assiniboine Community College.

Community partnerships pave the way to determine if education programs meet industry needs and offer evolving opportunities. At the same time, Assiniboine Community College maintains a collaborative relationship with IERHA so it can respond to the region’s needs and bring education closer to home.

Assiniboine Community College has offered a comprehensive health-care aide program and practical nursing program in the Interlake-Eastern region. More courses are coming up in Beausejour for both programs.

“When students can stay in their home communities to study, they typically will stay and work in their community. This certainly builds capacity in the region, is good for economic growth and responds to the labour shortage and demand,” Nicolas said.

“We are always looking for partnerships with communities and regional health authorities. Currently the School of Nursing meets regularly with regional health authorities to connect with communities. We continue to have conversations with IERHA to meet the educational needs of potential students closer to home to meet the labour market demand.”

RRC Polytech

RRC Polytech is committed to a continuous transformation of its learning model to meet emerging needs. Education options are flexible with a blend of virtual and course-based delivery models, including in-community training.

“Virtual and blended learning models allow students to study in the community or from home with hands-on skills assessments either on campus or at a centralized location,” said Darlene Bouvier, regional campus manager.

“Our course-based registration model allows for part-time, full-time, day or evening learning opportunities to meet the needs of learners who may be moving into a new career, underemployed or unemployed and may need alternate dates and times to complete their learning.”

Community partnerships are critical since students can learn directly and complete hands-on practicums locally, she added. From there, they can transition smoothly from practicum into jobs to support local employment needs.

“The college provides flexible wrap-around supports including students services, tutoring, study sessions, counselling, accessibility services and access to mentors and Elders,” Bouvier said.

“For example, in Sagkeeng First Nation, we delivered a health-care aide program where students studied with the support of the community and family. The opportunity for local training removes barriers related to access to childcare, transportation and the challenges and costs of moving outside of the community to receive an education where the learner may not otherwise have this opportunity.”

RRC Polytech provides dual credit opportunities locally throughout Manitoba in partnerships with schools and adult learning centres. Students can achieve their Grade 12 certificate alongside an RRC Polytech health-care aide or health unit clerk certificate, plus many other program options.

Partnerships within industries, such as health authorities, are essential, she added.

“IERHA is one of the region’s largest employers, and our partnership ensures collaboration on employment needs, supports training throughout the region and supports students with work experience that leads directly to job offers — and often times multiple job offers due to the extensive need for health-care professionals throughout the region,” Bouvier said.

“Our partnerships are the core of our success. They enable us to extend our resources, leverage our partners’ strengths, accelerate progress in innovation and research, and expand our reach.”

Looking ahead, RRC Polytech is committed to the continued development and expansion of community partnerships to reach all learners. Part-time virtual and blended options will be available this fall through Interlake and Peguis Fisher River campuses. Evening and weekend options are available through continuing education.

“We deliver multiple programs where learners can participate anywhere in the region with our blended learning model. Students may need to travel for testing and practicum; however, a large portion can be done in community or, if the student prefers, on campus. Students can take this full time, reduced work load or part time to meet individual needs,” Bouvier said.

“With the opportunity for virtual, in-community and flexible blended learning models, this opens the door for expanded learning opportunities throughout rural Manitoba.”

University of Manitoba

The University of Manitoba also creates connections with local communities through the College of Nursing.

Jennifer Dunsford, director of clinical education for the College of Nursing, said many nursing students benefit from clinical placements in rural settings, including those in Interlake-Eastern communities.

“We really value the opportunity to work with Interlake-Eastern RHA. There’s such a rich potential for great experiences for our students that they wouldn’t necessarily get doing a specialty placement in a tertiary care setting. If you’re in a rural setting, you might get orthopedic, burns, trauma, palliative care, labour and delivery,” she said. “If at all possible, we strongly encourage students to consider doing a rural placement at some point within their program.”

At the same time, rural communities benefit from students pursuing clinical placements in their facilities.

“Rural hospitals are having staffing crunches just like everywhere else. We find that the more a student is exposed to a certain environment or facility or area, the more likely they are to request that for their senior practicum — and very often senior practicum students get hired right onto the unit that they did their final placement on,” Dunsford said.

“So we’re hoping that that will help to address some of the staffing shortage across the province as well by expanding the placement opportunities. It’s been quite successful. Our students tend to enjoy their time in rural hospitals and I think they get a great experience.”

To learn more about local health-care education opportunities, visit

Healthy Together Now (HTN) is a community-led grassroots program that helps prevent chronic diseases in Manitoba.  Starting now, community organizations can apply for funding for prevention activities in the areas of physical activity, healthy eating, tobacco prevention and reduction, and mental well-being.

Interlake-Eastern RHA provides funds through Healthy Together Now for community organizations interested in decreasing chronic disease in their communities.  

“The Interlake-Eastern RHA is awarding funding to community groups addressing health and wellness issues in their communities. Applications are currently being accepted and grants will be awarded in late Spring. All programs are encouraged to apply,” says Shannon Montgomery, director health services; public health & wellness.

Applicants must complete an online application outlining the proposed project, the budget, partners involved, and target population. The fund covers activities directly related to the programming offered. Applications will be reviewed by the Interlake-Eastern Healthy Together Now Steering Committee to ensure grant criteria is met.  

Community meetings are being held across Interlake-Eastern region for any groups interested in applying for funds. The meetings are held to review potential projects and for community to review and recommend projects for funding.  Participation in a community meeting is required in order to access funding. Community meeting dates are scheduled from March 13-22nd.

All applicants should discuss projects with their Interlake-Eastern RHA contact.

For more information please visit:

Questions? Call 1-877-979-WELL(9355) or email [email protected]

Healthy Together Now is coordinated by Interlake-Eastern RHA and supported by Manitoba Health, Seniors, and Long-Term Care.

Camp Stepping Stones will be back in person from Friday May 31st to Sunday, June 2 and is looking for volunteers and campers! This camp is geared for kids aged seven to 17 who have recently lost a parent or somebody close to them. Volunteers create a safe environment for kids to explore their grief alongside other youth who are also grieving.

Cameron Benedictson, 33, occupational safety and health officer with Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority, lost his father when he was in his twenties so he knows what is like to lose someone close to him.

“I volunteered at camp last year for the first time. I saw that they needed volunteers and 

I thought it was a great idea for kids to go away for a weekend and see other kids who are going through something similar. They learn they aren’t alone,” says Benedictson who will be volunteering again this year. “They get to go have fun.”

Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer can fill out an application form that is available at

Different volunteer options are available, such as serving as cabin leaders and helping with activities.

In addition to volunteers, Camp is also still accepting applications for campers are also available at

“Volunteers are needed to help campers with a variety of activities ranging from sewing and crafts to ziplining and archery,” said Barb Ramsay, Palliative Care Volunteer Coordinator, “Volunteers are welcome to come for the whole weekend or for a few hours.”

For more information, contact Barb at [email protected], 1-855-494-7369 or 204-785-7542 or visit:

Please be advised the Quick Care Clinic phone lines are down. Please email [email protected] to relay a message to staff onsite.

Please be advised the phone lines are down at the Winnipeg Beach Clinic. Internet is still in service. If you need to contact staff onsite, please email: [email protected]

View the media release on the government website.

The Interlake-Eastern region offers opportunities for new doctors who are interested in gaining hands-on rural medicine experience.

Dr. Amanda Wong and Dr. Rita Costa have begun a two-year residency through a family medicine residency program in the region. Residency is the final training stage for doctors after they graduate from medical school.

Born and raised in Manitoba, Amanda pursued all her studies in the province. She completed her undergraduate bachelor of science degree with a major in genetics at the University of Manitoba and continued her medical studies there as well. While completing her bachelor of medicine, she focused her research on predicting injuries in high-level circus artists.

For her residency, Amanda chose to come to Interlake-Eastern for several reasons.

“Firstly, the staff in IERHA are great and create an ideal learning environment for residents, where our learning is prioritized and our experience can be tailored to our areas of interest,” said Amanda, whose family has a cabin in the Interlake and whose mom grew up in East Selkirk.

“Secondly, IERHA serves a large area of rural Manitoba and diverse populations, creating an ideal setting to become a skilled rural family physician. IERHA has been extremely welcoming.”

To start, Amanda will be primarily based out of the Selkirk Medical Centre and the Selkirk Regional Health Centre, and she’ll also spend some time in Lac du Bonnet during her second year of residency.

When she’s not busy studying and working, Amanda loves to play soccer.

“I spent five years playing for the University of Manitoba Bisons’ women’s soccer team during my undergraduate studies, during which I was team captain for several years. I am still playing soccer now and find it to be a good way to socialize with friends and stay active,” she said.

“I have also been quite involved with coaching various soccer teams, including running some soccer camps in Selkirk. Another hobby of mine is my house plants and propagating them. I am also a big sucker for bad Netflix reality shows.”

Looking ahead, Amanda hopes to practise medicine in rural Manitoba.

“I hope to give back to underserved communities and improve access to health care,” she said. “I hope to have a diverse practice and be able to care for people of all ages and backgrounds and have a wide scope of practice to offer my patients.”

Like Amanda, Rita began her studies at the University of Manitoba, where she first obtained a degree in microbiology.

“I absolutely loved learning about how our bodies fought against bacterial and viral diseases. I even completed a research project and published a paper in virology during the last year of my degree,” Rita said.

“I had always had an interest in medicine and wanting to help patients navigate the health-care system, so I applied to the Max Rady College of Medicine here in Manitoba and began my medical journey in fall 2019.”

During her fourth year in medical school, Rita spent two weeks in Selkirk, which piqued her interest in returning to the community.  

“I absolutely loved this experience, and it opened my eyes to how amazing a residency program the IERHA is. I knew that I wanted a residency program that allowed me to be a learner, while also giving me graded responsibility that will allow me to develop the skills and clinical reasoning necessary for independent practice — which is exactly what the program in IERHA allowed me to do,” she said.

“I have had such amazing learning opportunities and know that this is just the beginning. Another amazing aspect of the residency program that really sold me was the people I worked with.”

 Rita also currently works at the Selkirk Medical Centre and the Selkirk Regional Health Centre.

“Everyone I have come into contact with during my residency has been so kind, supportive and I find that everyone is invested in my learning and growth as a resident,” she said.

“I cannot say enough positive words about the residency program here in IERHA. I am truly very lucky to be trained here, and I believe the training I receive here will truly help me as a transition into independent practice at the end of the two years.”

When she’s not busy with her residency, Rita enjoys spending time with family and friends. She also likes to bake and go for walks in nature.

In the future, Rita hopes to continue to call the Interlake home.

“I am not originally from the Interlake region; however, that has not stopped me from exploring the region and loving every minute. I do hope to one day settle down in the Interlake region,” she said.

“I hope to have a comprehensive practice that looks after patients of all ages and different stages in life. I also hope to incorporate women’s health into my practice. My dream would be to practise family medicine in IERHA.”

While Amanda and Rita are in the early stages of their residency experience, Dr. Stewart Nadurak is currently in the second year of his residency program.

The family medicine residency in Interlake-Eastern is co-ordinated by Selkirk Medical Associates in collaboration with the department of family medicine, Max Rady College of Medicine and Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority. Dr. Ian Alexander of Selkirk Medical Associates is the lead. To date, the regional medicine residency program has trained and graduated six residents since launching in the region in 2019, and five of them have remained in the region.

Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority is now accepting nominations for the 2024 Physician Emeritus Award.
Physicians who are retired or have reduced their practice in preparation for retirement are eligible for nomination if they have provided exemplary service and expertise to their communities.
The nomination can be submitted by either physician colleagues or by community members.
“As a medical professional, there is no higher honour than being recognized by the community you serve or the colleagues you work with daily,” said Dr. Charles Penner, regional lead of medical services and chief medical officer, Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority (RHA). “I look forward to reading the nominations of physicians in the region who go above and beyond every day for their patients.”
Nominations should have three signatures and a paragraph about why the physician should be considered for the award.
Have a physician in mind? Nominations should take into account the following factors:
• Length of service (commitment to the community)
• Scope of service
• Recognition of exemplary skill by colleagues
• Recognition by the community
• Demonstration of the Interlake-Eastern RHA values in their practice (always with compassion, success in collaboration, accountability in everything we do, acting with integrity and respectful of each other.)
Nominations are to be forwarded to Debbie Gregoire at [email protected] by February 9, 2024.
The regional Medical Advisory Committee will consider nominations and determine award recipients.
Award recipients will be recognized in-person at the annual physician dinner in April.

All clinics and labs are closed on Dec. 25 Christmas Day, Dec. 26 Boxing Day and Jan. 1 New Year’s Day with the exception of the QuickCare Clinic which is only closed on Dec. 25.

The RAAM Clinic is closed on Dec. 26 Boxing Day and will reopen the following week on Jan. 2.

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