Physician examining a patient's ear.

Health Services

Our story

Watch a brief video to learn more about our history.

Vision

We envision a world in which all First Nation, Inuit and Métis have achieved full and equitable access to the conditions of health including: ancestral pride, cultural and language reclamation, peace, shelter, education, food, income, a stable environment, land and resources, social justice and health services, where the gifts and wisdom of First Nation, Métis, and Inuit cultures are recognized as valuable, distinctive and beautiful.

Mission

To honour relationships, inspire minds and contribute to the health and well-being of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children, families and communities.

Goals

  • Provide timely and appropriate access to health care services
  • Ensure quality of care and continuous improvement
  • Build strong relationships with goal of achieving improved health outcomes
  • Support and promote development of new knowledge as determined and directed by community
  • Teach new learners and foster continuing professional education

Background

Ongomiizwin – Health Services (OHS), formerly known as J. A. Hildes Northern Medical Unit (NMU) was created by the late Dr. John Arthur (Jack) Hildes, a physician and researcher who had a long-time commitment to the health and well-being of the people of the North.

An early advocate for the empowerment and self-determination of all Indigenous people, Dr. Hildes also worked towards the education of Indigenous health care providers, working towards a time when communities would manage their own health care needs.

The program started as an outreach physician service program in 1969, serving a few small northern communities in Manitoba and eight hamlets in Nunavut. From the beginning, Ongomiizwin Health Services has been committed to creating culture of mutual respect and a safe, secure and healthy environment where all people are valued. Ongomiizwin is committed to providing dependable high quality medical care and increasing awareness of health concerns of Indigenous people within the professional and academic community.

Service commitments

  • Safety
    We commit to providing culturally and clinically safe care and wellness of clients and communities.

    Listening
    We commit to listening openly and without judgment to our clients/families/communities and all members of the health care team.

    Compassion
    We commit to compassionate and caring service delivery and providing a welcoming environment to our clients.

    Respect
    We commit to reducing barriers (physical, language, cultural, etc.) which may limit the use of our services.

  • Humility
    We commit to supporting and responding to our client needs in a non-judgmental manner.

    Transparency
    We commit to being transparent and accountable to our clients, staff, partners and funders.

    Accountability
    We commit to preserving ethical behaviour, providing safe and competent care and upholding quality assurance requirements to maintain facility, professional and practice standards

    Learning and innovation
    We commit to innovation, creativity and being open to explore approaches and evidenced best practice.

Health programs

Diabetic Retinal Screening Program

Registered nurses with specialized training regularly travel to First Nations communities to meet with patients with diabetes.

Using digital technology, they examine and take photographs of patients’ eyes looking for diabetic retinopathy as well as other eye problems such as cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration.

The digital images are then uploaded to a secure server at the Buhler Eye Care Centre where an ophthalmologist reviews the photos. This process enables physicians to diagnose ophthalmology concerns that affect diabetics, including diabetic retinopathy.

During each visit, the nurses also provide one-to-one client education and liaise with community health care providers. Through this important work, they create awareness of diabetes and eye health at a community level.

The program benefits communities by offering patients with diabetes convenient access to retinal assessments without the burden of unnecessary travel on patients and their families, improving health and preventing treatable conditions from escalating.

Benefits for practitioners

As a retinal screening nurse, you will have the opportunity to use the latest technology in retinal photography to make a difference in First Nations communities.

Working in this program provides many different challenges that encourage continued professional development.

Finally, nurses in this program work in some of the most beautiful settings Manitoba has to offer in the majestic North.

Learn more

Contact the Diabetic Retinal Screening Program at:

Phone: 204-789-3711
Toll-free: 1-877-789-3711
Fax: 204-774-8919

Diabetic Foot Care Program

The Canadian Diabetes Association recommends patients with diabetes receive diabetic foot screenings annually; more frequently if the patient is at high risk for complications.

To help ensure patients receive this level of care, diabetic foot care nurses travel to First Nations communities to run clinics on a regular basis. Through these clinics, patients receive a lower limb assessment including a sensation test, circulation test and skin assessment. As needed, they will also receive foot and wound care appropriate to their condition.

While in the community, the nurses also engage in health promotion activities and work collaboratively with the allied health team, providing a holistic approach to diabetes management.

The program benefits patients by ensuring ongoing care without the burden or inconvenience of unnecessary travel.

Partners

The program works collaboratively with First Nations associations as well as the Federal and Provincial governments.

Additionally, through the WRHA the program is supported by coordination with areas such as infectious disease, vascular and rehab engineering.

Benefits for practitioners

Nurses have the opportunity to further their knowledge by attending a clinic at Health Sciences Centre run by infectious disease expert, Dr. John Embil.

Professional development is also encouraged by way of conferences, workshops and courses.

Nurses also value the experience of learning about the unique culture in northern communities and experiencing time in the spectacular Boreal Forest.

Learn more

Contact the Diabetic Foot Care Program at:

Phone: 204-789-3711
Toll-free: 1-877-789-3711
Fax: 204-774-8919

Family physicians

Ongomiizwin – Health Services provides physicians to First Nations communities on a regular basis, including fly-in and drive-in hospitals and nursing stations in northern Manitoba and one location in southern Manitoba.

During these visits, physicians oversee complex health problems, review chronic disease cases, develop treatment plans for continuing care, chart reviews, make referral to specialists, review and renew prescriptions, review lab tests, diagnostic reports and consultant letters.

Regularly scheduled visits from physicians mean patients are able to stay in their community, except when further treatment is needed at a tertiary care facility or community hospital in the city.

Part of the team

Physicians are an important part of a health-care team that serves these First Nations communities, liaising with other interdisciplinary caregivers serving the community.

In addition to serving as consultants to the nurses who are the primary caregivers, they also work with medical specialists, dentists, physiotherapists, mental health care workers and more.

As time allows, they also perform case-related teaching for nurses and act as preceptor for both family medicine residents and undergrad medical learners.

Locum opportunities also exist on an ongoing basis as replacements for vacation and education leaves.

Benefits for practitioners

Working in the northern communities of Manitoba is truly the last bastion of what we think of as family medicine from another era.

Nowhere else can a family physician experience a wide variety of presentations they will never see anywhere else, spend time getting to know patients well, provide continuity of care to many generations of the same family, receive hugs and gestures of appreciation scarce in a fast-paced urban practice.

And at the same time getting back more than you give; the experience of a unique culture, lessons of resilience, hope and resolution from patients, lessons in flexibility, learning how to be a physician with low/no technology and experiencing the wondrous nature of the Canadian landscape.

The family physicians are committed to the provision of primary care, preventive health measures and health education with the approach that community relations, culture and values are often inseparable from patient care.

Learn more

For more information, contact:

Acey Spence
Phone: 204-789-3282
Toll-free: 1-877-789-3711
Fax: 1-204-774-8919
adrianne.spence@umanitoba.ca

Inuit Health Program

The Inuit Health Program is one component of Ongomiizwin – Health Services, devoted to coordinating health service provision in Nunavut in partnership with the Government of Nunavut.

The Inuit Health Program includes medical consultants, library services, and community based physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech language pathology services to the seven communities in the Kivalliq Region of Nunavut, and to the Hamlet of Sanikiluaq in partnership with the Department of Health.

Physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech language pathology are also provided in all schools in Nunavut in partnership with the Department of Education.

Medical specialists

The Specialty Program has been an integral part of Ongomiizwin – Health Services (OHS) since its inception. Throughout the years, OHS has strived to identify issues and concerns of the communities and use creative strategies to address them. The specialty component of OHS has expanded from its original six specialties to 23, not including the Diabetic Foot Care and Retinal Screening programs.

Outreach delivery of specialty programs reduces the need for patients to travel to large urban areas and reduces the inconvenience and associated costs.

On a rotating basis the program deploys from a roster of 70 itinerant specialists.

The following specialty services are provided:

Learn more

For more information, contact OHS:

Phone: 204-789-3711
Toll-free: 1-877-789-3711
Fax: 204-774-8919

Medical rehabilitation (Inuit Health Program)

The Inuit Health Program coordinates medical rehabilitation services including physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech language pathology in partnership with the government of Nunavut.

Responsibilities include not only direct client care, but also education, client advocacy, and participation in community development activities.

The mission statement Medical Rehabilitation Services is to “deliver rehabilitation services across Nunavut that are equitable, accessible and culturally relevant, and strive to achieve excellence in quality of rehabilitation client care.”

Therapists working with the Nunavut’s department of health are based in Rankin Inlet and travel to the Kivalliq Region’s communities two to five times per year based on community needs.

Services to Sanikiluaq, Nunavut are provided by therapists based in Winnipeg.

Therapists accept referrals from community health providers as well as self-referrals from individuals. Clients of all ages are seen in a location that is best suited to meet the client’s needs, such as the therapy services office at the Wellness Center in Rankin Inlet, community health center, group home, workplace, day care, or on home visits.

Therapists working with the Nunavut’s department of education are based across Canada and provide school-based and virtual therapy services across the three regions of Nunavut, to meet the school performance needs of Nunavut students.

Services are delivered in the Response to Intervention model; a multitiered problem-solving approach that emphasizes instructional decision-making based on a child's response to evidence-based interventions over time.

Working collaboratively with educators, families and students, the therapist provides services to individual students as well as entire schools to help create classroom environments that encourage successful participation and achievement of children.

Therapists work with other rehabilitation staff and health professionals to provide a holistic service to students.

Learn more

Brochure (PDF)

For more information, contact:

Monica Achtemichuk
Director of Medical Rehabilitation Programs
Phone: 204-975-7700
Fax: 204-774-8919

Physician & Clinical Assistant Program

The Ongomiizwin-Health Services Physician and Clinical Assistant Program was launched in 2020 as an innovative way to enhance the delivery of physician resources in Manitoba’s Indigenous communities.

Physician assistants are highly skilled, regulated health-care professionals trained in the medical model as generalists who work in collaboration with a licensed physician with onsite or remote supervision.

Physician assistants are uniquely prepared to be adaptable and versatile within various practice sites and disciplines

Traditionally, clinical assistants are internationally trained physicians. However, they may also be nurses, paramedics or respiratory therapists with an exceptional skill set and function similar to physician assistants in Manitoba.

These physician extenders have been integrated into multidisciplinary teams and function mainly as consultants to advanced-practice registered nurses and support physician care to hospitals and communities.

Our communities

Ongomiizwin-Health Services supplies family physicians to 18 fly-in and drive-in communities and three hospital sites throughout northern Manitoba.

Physician assistants and clinical assistants oversee and deliver chronic care programs in Garden Hill and St. Theresa Point, where they make a significant impact on the management of complex health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

Within the fly-in program, our physician assistants help to support the nursing stations as on-call consultants to our nursing colleagues for primary and emergency care.

We also have physician assistants working in the ER and clinic at the Percy E Moore Hospital in Hodgson, Manitoba.

It is our vision to have physician extenders in all our Ongomiizwin-Health Services communities over the next five years.

Clinical rotations

Physician assistant students and mentorship Ongomiizwin-Health Services offers clinical rotations for students in the Master of Physician Assistant Studies program at the University of Manitoba’s Rady Faculty of Health Sciences.

These rotations provide students with an opportunity to get hands-on experience in both chronic and acute care medicine while working with experienced physician assistant preceptors.

Our values

Physician assistants and clinical assistants parallel their physician colleagues in committing to and abiding by the values of the Ongomiizwin-Health Services physician charter which outlines eight service commitments including safety, listening, compassion, respect, humility, transparency, accountability, learning and innovation.

Benefits for practitioners

There’s nothing else like it

Be part of an exciting and innovative program backed by supportive physicians and leadership. Explore Manitoba’s rich cultural landscape and consider practicing medicine in a rewarding and awe-inspiring northern environment.

Independence and autonomy

Many of the communities we serve are remote, which requires clinicians travel by plane, helicopter, boat and hovercraft to fly-in communities. Due to the setting, you will practice medicine with a high level of autonomy and authority with only remote physician supervision. This type of practice is particularly challenging and extremely rewarding and is not offered anywhere else in Manitoba or Canada.

Flexibility

Ongomiizwin-Health Services has various positions ranging from casual locum opportunities to full-time contracts . We have split-site practice options and flexible schedules that afford our contractors a balanced professional career.

Ongoing educational opportunities

Ongomiizwin-Health Services provides opportunities to enrich your knowledge and skills and to enhance clinical experiences in northern medicine. We offer an accredited continuing medical education series to keep our team up to date in best practice and to support ongoing learning and growth with a designated physician assistant and clinical assistant program education.

Mentorship

Our strong, seasoned physician assistant team provides on-site mentorship of newly graduated or recently hired physician assistants out of our Garden Hill Nursing Station.

Learn more

We are currently hiring! Please send inquiries or expressions of interest to:

Acey Spence
Phone: 204-789-3282
Toll-free: 1-877-789-3711
Fax: 1-204-774-8919

Renal health (Island Lake regional program)

The Island Lake Regional Renal Health Program runs a state-of-the-art dialysis centre and focuses on prevention and education in the community through a range of activities.

All nursing staff have been specially trained through the nine-week Manitoba Nephrology Nursing Course in Winnipeg. Maintenance and housekeeping staff are from the community and work as interpreters when necessary.

If medical issues not related to dialysis arise, the patient is cared for by the Ongomiizwin Health – Services physician and FNIHB nurse working in the nursing station.

A modern nine-plex apartment building was constructed adjacent to the Renal Health Unit and Nursing Station so that renal staff, visiting specialists, and students can live in the community.

The establishment of the program has made a substantial improvement in the lives of Island Lake dialysis patients.

Prior to the program, dialysis patients living in the remote Island Lake Communities in Manitoba were uprooted out of their communities, separated from friends and family indefinitely. Because of this, some patients chose to forgo dialysis instead of leaving their families, homes, culture and social networks, leading to serious health and social consequences.

Not only does the program allow community members to stay home, but it also enables transient patients to come home for weddings, to say farewell to loved ones passing on and to celebrate holidays with those they hold dear. And, in conjunction with the educational and prevention programs in the communities, there is hope that future generations will enjoy better health.

Partners

This program was launched in 2005 through the collaborative work between First Nation communities, Four Arrows Regional Health Authority, Manitoba Health, Manitoba Renal Program, University of Manitoba, Health Canada (FNIHB), and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.

Learn more

For more information, contact:

Phone: 204-789-3425
Fax: 204-774-8919

Communities served

Provider resources

Legacy fund
We have established the Ongomiizwin Health – Services 50th anniversary legacy fund to mark a milestone in providing health services to Indigenous communities in Manitoba and the North for the past five decades. Revenue realized through sponsorships and donations will be directed to this fund to support and expand opportunities for Indigenous Peoples to enter careers in the health science.

Our team

Contact us

Ongomiizwin – Health Services
Indigenous Institute of Health and Healing, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences
Room 665 Basic Medical Sciences Building
745 Bannatyne Ave. 
University of Manitoba (Bannatyne campus)
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3E 0W2

204-789-3711
204-774-8919