IERHA taking French-speaking communities seriously

Berthelette and Carrière at Aurèle Lemoine School in St. Laurent on June 14. Photo by Twyla Siple / Interlake Publishing

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Ten community members and five Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority representatives attended the IERHA’s French Language Services Plan for 2018-2023 at Aurèle Lemoine School in St. Laurent on June 14.

The presentation began with a discussion of health care services in the municipality by IERHA Chief Executive Officer, Ron Van Denakker. He provided an overview of the transition process of primary health care in the area, emergency medical services, acute care and critical care and how they will become more robust in the coming years.

“There are huge transformation processes going on today,” he explained. “The target for us (is that) EMS needs to arrive within 30 minutes of a call (90% of the time).”

Denakker explained how the IERHA needs to compete for staff, and later the presentation explained that geography is the main issue. He said that only 25 or 26 out of 60 on-call positions have been filled for 12-hour-shifts with a relief budget added to that as well, so that workers can call in “tired”.

Denakker also discussed how it may take up to 10 years to have a fully integrated electronic medical record (system).

IERHA’s Vice President of Community Services & Chief Allied Health Officer Karen Stevens-Chambers said that a lot of the outdated systems will be rectified in coming years.

The five-year plan

“We have a responsibility and a requirement to think about French services, and that is was tonight is about,”  Stevens-Chambers explained as they moved into the meat of the meeting.

Stevens-Chambers, along with the IERHA’s Community Wellness Facilitator and French Language Services Coordinator from Pine Falls Health Complex, Michelle Berthelette, and Lori Carrière, the IERHA’s Primary Care Nurse and French Language Services Coordinator in St. Laurent, presented the plan for the duration of the meeting.

The province of Manitoba requires its Regional Health Authorities to develop FLS plans as a regulation in The Regional Health Authorities Act.

Its new 5-year FLS Plan will be accompanied by an annual FLS action plan that will be developed by its French Language Services Committee in collaboration with community partners, stakeholders and the regional management team, according to the presentation.

“The corner stone of being able to move our French Language Services forward is being able to employ staff,” Stevens-Chambers explained. “We’ve had designated positions in both St. Laurent and St. Georges for quite a long time now. When we had a look at this. In our planning, we wanted to look at the gaps… where we are not recruiting (people that speak) French into those positions.  In full transparency, we are not always catching that we need to do that. We need to shut all those gaps, and make changes into our electronic system.”

She explained how the IERHA’s  updated FLS plan is to highlight designated French speaking positions and fill them and that the IERHA needs to change its electronic system to do that, so the IERHA is requesting community members’ feedback.

An online questionairre is available for anyone who wishes to help.

“Over the past several years we have been taking measures to improve our active offer of French language services. Our (online) French Language Services questionnaire offers the opportunity to not only give us feedback, but increase awareness of the existing French Language resources. Your responses will assist us in developing and improving our French Language Services,” its website said.

“One of the things I hear from staff (is that) we have Francophones that are working in the system, but sometimes they won’t declare (themselves). They don’t tell us that they’re French (because they don’t feel they have the proper medical terminology to identify themselves as fluent in French),” explained Berthelette, who says the IERHA wants to help support the francophones already employed by offering that training.

The presentation highlighted increasing bilingual staff, training current staff in speaking French for those that are interested and have already seen a 124% increase in translation of  its documents since 2013.

For more information, you can find the presentation online at under the “About Us” tab and click on the submenu, “Accessibility for Our Residents”.