The opening of Centre de santé Saint-Boniface in 1999 was the product of many years of work and the realization of a dream long cherished by Francophones.
Following the publication of the 1989 Gauthier report on French-language health services, the Province recognized the pressing need to create a primary care health centre for the Francophone population.
To guide the conversation, a survey was conducted to determine the health needs of St. Boniface and St. Vital residents. In 1996, the Société franco-manitobaine (SFM), Collège universitaire de Saint-Boniface (CUSB) and the Grey Nuns of Manitoba initiated discussions on building a health centre for Francophones. As a result of the founding members’ focus on making the project a reality, Centre de santé Saint-Boniface was established within two years.
In 1997, St. Boniface General Hospital (SBGH) held meetings with community representatives to discuss the possibility of creating a health centre. In 1998, the project was submitted to the Manitoba Minister of Health and it received funding as a three-year pilot project.
In January 1999, the Grey Nuns of Manitoba, CUSB and SFM established the first Centre de santé Saint-Boniface Board of Directors. When the Centre opened on July 26, 1999, a second objective was achieved: creating an environment where staff and clients could interact in French.
Soon, successful negotiations were held with SBGH to obtain space, and staff was hired. It was a small bilingual team of 12 employees. The Centre set itself apart with its comprehensive approach to the concept of wellness. It brought physicians, nurses, a nutritionist and mental health counsellors together under one roof, so as to meet the diverse primary care needs of clients.
In addition to offering a health care access point to the French-speaking population of Winnipeg and to St. Boniface residents, the Centre has also acted as a community development facilitator.
Centre de santé became a permanent facility in 2002. Over the years, through the many partnerships established with the community, the Centre has delivered valuable services to the French-speaking population of Winnipeg and to St. Boniface residents and has helped train bilingual nurses, nurse practitioners and physicians. As well, the Centre has been a model for many similar health centres and in February 2004 even took charge of the bilingual component of the provincial Health Links–Info Santé call centre.
Centre de santé is the symbol of a collective effort by the community for the community. According to its founders, the achievements of Centre de santé have far exceeded expectations.