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Emergency Department

Two new Physician Assistants recruited to Swan River

Physician Assistants (PAs) are healthcare professionals who practice medicine under the supervision of a physician. They complement existing services and aid in improving patient access. Recently, National Physician Assistant (PA) day was recognized. Prairie Mountain Health also acknowledges and says “thank you” to its Physician Assistants who work in our region and are based in Brandon, Dauphin and Swan River. PMH continues recruiting for these professionals with the recent addition of two new Physician Assistants in Swan River. Even more exciting is that one of the new PAs, Charnae Betcher, a Swan River resident, is returning to her home community to work.

Charnae Betcher
Physician Assistant

Betcher graduated with a Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) from the University of Manitoba (UM) in October. Based out of the department of family medicine, Max Rady College of Medicine, the UM MPAS program has recently started its 15th year. Of the three PA programs in Canada, UM is the only one to offer the program at a master’s level. MPAS is a highly competitive program, with over 150 applicants vying for just 15 spots. Beginning in early December, Charnae will be located at the Swan Valley Primary Care Centre (SVPCC )as part of the My Health Team initiative.

“I am grateful to return to Swan River and serve the community where I grew up,” Betcher said.

“ I hope to contribute to enhancing local health care as a PA by working collaboratively to improve access to healthcare services, patient outcomes and quality of life.”

Fellow recruit James Awuah will be based at the Swan Valley Health Centre. Awuah, who started in mid-November, comes to the Region from South Dakota, USA. He currently lives in Regina, SK., with his family. He graduated from the University of South Dakota in 2018. He had been practicing emergency medicine and family medicine at critical access hospitals in North Dakota and South Dakota until he joined SVHC.

James Awuah
Physician Assistant

“I am very excited to be part of a team that continues to make a positive impact in the lives of community members,” Awuah stated.

“I am thrilled to continue to promote life and good health to the people I come across daily as a Physician Assistant. The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

Swan Valley Primary Care Centre physician Dr. Leah Koetting says health care is a team effort and Physician Assistants have a vital role.

“By working alongside physicians in hospital rounds, the clinic, and the emergency department, they ensure more patients are seen and treated in a timely manner.”

According to the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants, the introduction of PAs into the country began within the Canadian Armed Forces in the 1950s. Manitoba was the first province to introduce PAs into the healthcare system in 1999, and today, approximately 800 certified PAs are practicing in Canada—with over 500 in Ontario. As of December 2022, there will be 10 PAs practicing within PMH in Brandon, Dauphin and Swan River.

A Physician Assistant has the skills and experience to deal with medical emergencies, specialty practice environments, and everyday healthcare needs. The PA is a physician extender and not an independent practitioner; they work under the direction of supervising physicians within the client/patient-centered care team. As part of their comprehensive responsibilities, PAs can:

  • conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests.
  • counsel on preventive health care.
  • assist in surgery, and write prescriptions.
  • Participate in education, research and provide some administrative services.

In Brandon, some PAs assist in general and specialist surgery along with areas like kidney disease and the renal unit. In Dauphin, the two PAs undertake different responsibilities —one works within the surgery program and the other within primary care.

Prairie Mountain Health CEO Brian Schoonbaert says the region continues to look at ways to increase the recruitment and retention of healthcare professionals.

“PMH has hired more Physician Assistants, Nurse Practitioners and Clinical Assistants to expand primary care availability. We continue to meet with our stakeholders and partners to review challenges and discuss potential solutions to health human resource shortages that the rest of the province and country face now.”

Schoonbaert sincerely thanks all PMH staff for their continued efforts to provide patient care during this challenging period in the healthcare system. He adds the region remains committed to exhausting all available options to address these challenges.

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Nurse Practitioner hits the ground running in Souris area

Note: As part of national Nurse Practitioner Week, which takes place this year from November 13-19, PMH is pleased to introduce the newest recruit to the health region.

Hello, my name is Danielle Lewis MN RN (NP) and I am the Nurse Practitioner (NP) who recently accepted a position within Prairie Mountain Health (PMH) region at Souris Medical Associates, Souris Hospital, and Sioux Valley Health Centre.

I grew up on a cattle farm close to Melita. I enjoyed living the farm life, playing hockey, baseball, badminton and acting in community musicals. Upon my high school graduation, I moved to Winnipeg to attend University.

While working on my nursing degree, I worked as a health care aide at St. Boniface hospital on a variety of floors and Jocelyn House providing palliative care in a home setting. After graduating with my Bachelor of Nursing from the University of Manitoba, I worked as a Registered Nurse in the Intermediate Care Nursery, Children’s Acute Medicine, and Brandon Emergency Room.

I graduated from the University of Saskatchewan Master of Nursing Nurse Practitioner program in 2020 and began working at Swan Lake First Nation Health Centre. Afterwards, I joined Southern Health in the first solely NP lead model in Manitoba, which included primary care, in-patient care and enhance primary care/extended hours.

Excited to work closer to home, I came back to PMH in August of 2022. My primary site is Souris and includes clinical as well as hospital practice. I also work part-time at the Sioux Valley Health Centre. I provide care for a range of acute and chronic health concerns and conditions. In my practice, I do a lot of teaching and believe in empowering patients to understand their health and participate in their care.

In addition to being an NP, I am a wife and Mom of two boys ages 5 and 2. I continue to play hockey, baseball, enjoy camping and teach yoga. In both my practice and personal life, I believe that if you do not make time for health, you will be forced to make time for illness.

The health staff and community members have been very welcoming and supportive. I look forward to working with you all and growing my role for many years to come.

For more information on Nurse Practitioners within PMH, view the health region’s website.

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Five New International Medical Graduates Recruited

Dr. Sidra Jawed | Neepawa

Physician recruitment efforts continue within Prairie Mountain Health (PMH) region. One of the initiatives the region utilizes as part of overall recruitment strategies includes the provincial Medical Licensure Program for International Medical Graduates (MLPIMG). The ‘IMG Program’ assists foreign-trained doctors in obtaining their medical license to be able to practice as a primary care (family) physician in Manitoba.

“During the past year, the region sponsored five physicians to participate in the ‘IMG’ Program,” said Brian Schoonbaert, PMH CEO. “After much consideration, doctors that successfully graduated from the program were strategically placed at various sites within PMH communities (or nearby areas) that require additional sufficient physician resources.

This year, these communities included Neepawa, Roblin, Russell, Virden and Swan River. Physicians and their start date in each community are listed below.

  • Shady Attalla Virden (started Sept. 19)
  • Dalia Bushara Roblin (started Oct. 3)
  • Samin Izadi Swan River (started Sept. 19)
  • Sidra Jawed Neepawa (started Sept. 19)
  • Dina Koreen Russell (started Sept. 19)
Dr. Samin Izadi | Swan River

In return for regional sponsorship, IMG doctors agree to practice in their respective communities for four years. The Program is supported by the University of Manitoba —Max Rady College of Medicine, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba and Manitoba Health.

Last year, five PMH-sponsored IMG physicians were placed in the communities of Killarney (2), Minnedosa, Roblin and Swan River.

“The International Medical Graduates program is an excellent example of partners coming together to provide Manitobans the care they need where and when they need it,” said Minister of Health Audrey Gordon. “The program supports physician placement in much needed rural communities throughout the province by matching them with internationally trained physicians. The province is proud to strengthen healthcare by supporting this program and delivering quality care to all Manitobans.”

During the next rotation, which is already underway, PMH is sponsoring five more IMG physicians who commenced their training program this past June. If successful, they will be able to commence practice within the health region sometime next fall (2023).

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PMH hosts Family Medicine Residents’ Retreat

Prairie Mountain Health (PMH) was proud to host the provincial Family Medicine Residents’ Retreat, which took place in Brandon on September 23-24, 2022. The in-person event had been on hold for the past few years because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

PMH CEO Brian Schoonbaert was pleased with the event and was confident participants would leave with a much better understanding of the many physician practice opportunities available in rural Manitoba.

“We believe that the lifestyle choices new physicians seek can be found in our rural settings. Our landscapes offer open prairies, serene and bustling communities, many lakes, small ‘mountains,’ numerous walking, hiking and biking trails, and close access to both provincial and national parks. We hope that recruits recognize what we already know; living and working in rural settings can be very rewarding!

Over 90 family medicine residents attended the weekend gathering, which featured information sessions on breastfeeding, geriatric frailty, Medical Assistance in Dying, point of care ultrasound and physician billing and finance information. An interactive job fair allowed many recruiters, including Regional Health Authorities and physician clinics throughout the province, to showcase their areas to prospective doctors.

PICTURED: Above- PMH was well-represented at the Residents’ Retreat Job Fair. From left are Dr. Mryanda Sopel, Dr. Nolan Brackenreed, Dr. Adrian Fung and Dr. Leah Koetting. At left, Residents get some suturing practice in while at right, it’s a special arts and crafts painting project as part of a team building exercise.

Schoonbaert says PMH will stay in touch with those interested in rural medicine.

“Within our health region alone, there’s lots to look forward to, including the construction of a new $127-million hospital in Neepawa and larger renovations planned for Brandon Regional Health Centre (BRHC) that will add a new ICU, more medical beds, and an expansion to the neonatal ICU. There are also enhancements planned for the Westman Cancer Centre so that when paired with the BRHC upgrades, Brandon will become the intermediate care hub for western Manitoba.”

Some other smaller capital projects are planned for hospitals in Dauphin, Souris, Killarney and Virden, which will help enhance localized service delivery and improve access to quality patient care. There are other exciting developments and expansions which have been announced by Manitoba Health and Shared Health, including the construction of a new hospital in Portage and additions to hospitals in Steinbach, the Boundary Trails Health Centre in Morden/Winkler and Selkirk, to name a few.

Schoonbaert sincerely thanks all of those from PMH that helped to organize the event and represent the health region at various functions.

The last Residents’ Retreat was held in 2019 and hosted by Interlake/Eastern RHA.

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Closer to Home with Rural Medicine Opportunities

“Dauphin will always be home,” said Dr. Lauren Baker. “To provide care to a community that means so much to me is rewarding and also fulfilling. I absolutely love it here.”

Dr. Lauren Baker

From a young age, Dr. Lauren Baker admired the doctors in her hometown of Dauphin and credits their compassion and kindness for inspiring her career in medicine. Today, as a first-year resident in the Parkland Family Medicine Residency Program working out of the Dauphin Regional Health Centre, Dr. Baker is experiencing this support and kindness firsthand, from doctors who are now her colleagues.

“It’s such a strong teamwork environment here between all the health-care providers,” said Dr. Baker. “Everyone helps each other out and each doctor brings a unique set of skills to the community. From obstetrics to geriatric care, it’s an amazing opportunity to be able to learn alongside them.”

Dr. Baker’s first real experience in clinical medicine was through a program called Home for the Summer; an educational work placement to help medical students gain interprofessional skills and practical experience. While participating in the program, Dr. Baker quickly realized the support and opportunity available in rural health care settings, including in her home town of Dauphin.

“Throughout my journey I’m thankful to have had a variety of experiences and a lot of hands on learning,” said Dr. Baker. “Today in the residency program and as a new mom, I also feel lucky to be able to say it has been very supportive and the instructors are there for you every step of the way.”

The Parkland Family Medicine Residency Program is well-established in Dauphin, known for its resident support and educational opportunities. Each month, residents gather for two days of learning from local physicians. These sessions cover a wide range of topics, from emergency simulations to farm safety, each intended to prepare them for what they’ll see on the job, especially in a rural community.

“I truly believe that learning family medicine in rural Manitoba is the best place to prepare you for whichever path you want to pursue in the future. You get it all here.” said Dr. Baker. “In rural programs, you really build up the skills and confidence to work independently. This means working through situations where you might feel unsure of how to get started.”

Rural Family Medicine Programs are offered in both small and larger health facilities across rural Manitoba, providing medical students with diverse training opportunities that are unique to the health needs of the populations they serve.

Dr. Baker alongside Dr. Scott Kish, Site Education Director and Site Medical Lead of the Parkland Family Medicine Residency Unit at the University of Manitoba

The Parkland Family Medicine Residency Program Dauphin program is led by Dr. Scott Kish, Site Education Director and Site Medical Lead of the Parkland Family Medicine Residency Unit at the University of Manitoba. Dr. Kish is well-known in the community, devoting his efforts to the program and his full-time practice, making sure everyone feels supported. Recognized both provincially and nationally, Dr. Kish is a recipient of the Family Physician of the Year Award in Manitoba and the Rural Physicians of Canada Rural Service Award.

“Looking at how programs like this have developed in places like Portage la Prairie, Steinbach, at Boundary Trails Health Centre and in communities in Interlake-Eastern Health Region, I’m excited about the training opportunities that exist in rural communities across Manitoba,” said Dr. Kish. “Each area has started to really grow and it’s encouraging to see how we are able to meet the community needs.”

In Dauphin, the ‘community’s needs’ include care for more than 8,000 Dauphin residents as well as people living in surrounding communities and parts of northern Manitoba.

“Caring for people who come from a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures is a true benefit to us as care providers,” said Dr. Baker. “We serve many different populations here in Dauphin including Indigenous, Ukrainian, German, and Filipino residents to name a few. Learning from those we serve helps us build up knowledge and experience to provide more comprehensive care.”

For Dr. Baker, being part of the residency program in her hometown of Dauphin has been the perfect fit, offering her opportunities to care for her community and become a great doctor close to home while balancing her life as a new mom.

“Being a part of the community, having those connections, there’s a familiarity with patients that I really value,” said Dr. Baker. “They often feel more comfortable around me because of our shared community experiences and networks. This helps to develop trust, making it easier for them to open up and easier for me to provide better care.”

“It’s a great place to learn and practice,” added Dr. Kish. “With a great group of physicians, the incredible geographic location, many opportunities, and outdoor activities like kayaking and cycling, it feels like a world-class destination.”

For information about the Family Medicine Residency—Rural Stream visit their webpage. For employment opportunities in the Prairie Mountain Health Region, visit the Health Careers Manitoba webpage.

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