Thank you, Mr. Chair and gentlemen members of the committee.
I wear more than one hat in this city, including that of President and CEO of the Hôpital général Saint-Boniface and that of Assistant to the Executive Director of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority with regard to French-language services for the entire Winnipeg region. I won't go back to 1871 and tell you that the Hôpital Saint-Boniface was the first hospital established west of Ontario. It was originally a four-bed hospital in a Francophone community, of course. It subsequently developed, but it was not until 1989-1990 that it officially received a mandate to provide French-language services to the population of Saint-Boniface and Saint-Vital. It was also the main hospital for Manitoba Francophones who went to it.
In 1999, when the Regional Health Authority was created, the hospital was officially given a mandate to actively offer French-language services to the Francophones of Winnipeg, particularly those of Saint-Boniface and Saint-Vital. The strategy used by the regional health authority was to target primary services in the Francophone community and in places like the Winnipeg Children's Hospital, which was the only hospital providing services for children in the city. The hospital was designated potentially bilingual at that time.
Since 2001, we've had a French-language services coordinator for the Winnipeg region. She has her office at the Hôpital général Saint-Boniface. However, it wasn't until 2006 that resources were available to support that person, including a second coordinator and secretarial assistance. During that period, that is in the past six years, there have been some achievements, a new general policy on French-language services, the designation of bilingual positions, recruitment, communications and translation. In addition, we now have access to a resource centre that is part of the Conseil communauté en santé.
Bilingual signage and new public education material have been developed to a certain degree, but definitely not to a point that and makes us proud. In our last annual report, we note that the City of Winnipeg has 500 designated bilingual positions. That figure may seem large, but it must be kept in mind that 27,000 people work in health in the Winnipeg region. So we're talking about a little more than one percent.
In the past five years, we've been working in close cooperation with the Collège universitaire de Saint-Boniface and the Consortium national de formation en santé to develop training for Francophone physicians as well as nursing and health care aid programs. Over the past few years, this partnership has produced some 20 nursing graduates a year. Three doctors, who have already graduated from medical school, are currently taking family medicine residencies.
This year, eight doctors are in training, in unusual circumstances. Some are studying in English at the University of Manitoba, others at the University of Ottawa. In addition, two doctors are in training at the University of Sherbrooke. We've calculated that roughly 14 would have to be trained each year for us to be able to hope, within 20 or 25 years, to provide half of the frontline medical services required, that is in family medicine. We've made good progress, but it's barely enough to offset departures.
We've managed to establish certain services. Our objective, which seems a distant one, is to actively offer services to the public when they present for service. A report by a committee chaired by Judge Chartier has designated specific areas where an attempt should be made to increase active offer. The Hôpital général Saint-Boniface is preparing, after 15 years of efforts, to designate bilingual positions in sectors such as emergency medicine, obstetrics, maternity and geriatrics. In this last sector, it should not be forgotten that the Francophone population is aging.
This is a battle in a minority setting such as ours.
We're nevertheless facing major challenges, particularly in recruitment and retention.
It's one thing to offer training, but quite another to get people to enroll in a strongly minority setting. In addition, competition is generally tough across the country for getting into universities and among graduates. It isn't uncommon for people with French-language training to be highly sought after and recruited by sectors that aren't bilingual.
Keeping the people we manage to train is a challenge. Getting Francophones or bilinguals in a minority setting into a relatively new health training program is another. Some schools nearby have been established for a number of years. Once these people have graduated—which Mr. Gagné talked about—all the organizations that offer services pick them up. So there's very strong competition among us for the few people we train.
Unfortunately, we're not having a lot of success recruiting people outside the province, attracting bilingual people here to Manitoba. We haven't done very well in that regard.
Obviously it's hard for us to be more attractive than others because our collective agreements in the health field are so rigid that it's very difficult to offer financial or other incentives.
I've already mentioned the efforts that have been made to get people to enroll in training programs. We must continue putting the emphasis on that. The health strategy adopted in Winnipeg is also to go after candidates from immersion schools. Within 10 years, there will probably be as many Manitoban francophiles coming out of immersion—that is Anglophones who have studied in French—as so-called old stock Francophones.
As regards federal government support, what would we like? First, of course, we would like the government to continue the efforts it's been making for the past five to seven years. A few years ago, when we started focusing on medical training, we thought that success in the first year would be to have a doctor or student do an internship. We were at that stage.
Now we have eight doctors in training, three post-doctoral physicians in training and some 17 doctors who did internships this year. So that's progress, but it's very tenuous.
How can we add to that? We must continue promoting bilingualism. I'm originally from Montreal, and I've been here for five years. Bilingualism programs have been so successful that being bilingual is now considered sexy in the Winnipeg community, whereas that wasn't at all the case a few years ago. So these efforts must continue.
If we could get some support, assistance for the people we send for training outside the province, because we don't always have the capacity to take them in at the university or college level here, if we could get incentive programs to ensure that they come back to their community to practice their profession, and if we could have programs designed to encourage young Francophones or bilinguals to go into the health field, that would be good.
I'll stop there, Mr. Chair.