Healthy Living in the North

Hemodialysis Collaboration During the 2017 Wildfires

A group of hemodialysis staff.On July 8, 2017 the hemodialysis unit at the University Hospital of Northern BC (UHNBC) in Prince George received a call from the charge nurse at Cariboo Memorial Hospital in Williams Lake. The town had been placed on evacuation alert due to the wildfires, and they may need to transfer 18 patients to Prince George. That call started a sequence of events which brought together two hemodialysis units from different health authorities and showcased the collaboration and dedication of health care practitioners.

Later on July 8, Iqwinder Mangat, the head nurse for hemodialysis, spoke with a director at Interior Health where she learned that transferring the patients to Prince George was plan B, and Kamloops was their plan A. A teleconference at 6:30pm on July 9 confirmed that they were proceeding with plan B and 18 hemodialysis patients were being evacuated to Prince George. An evacuate order for Williams Lake was imminent and they needed to evacuate patients as soon as possible.

By the time Mangat got off the teleconference call, the hemodialysis unit at UHNBC was already closed. She came in to the unit to look at the patient schedule for the next day to free up spots for the Williams Lake patients. A renal tech also came in to assist with moving dialysis supplies to prepare for the additional patients. The next morning, Mangat received calls from the Williams Lake patients to schedule their dialysis treatments, and they were slotted into available spots. Their quick thinking and planning made it so all scheduled patient treatments could carry on as normal.

The hemodialysis unit at UHNBC welcomed staff deployed from the Cariboo Memorial Hospital hemodialysis unit to work with them on the unit. Due to the difference in dialysis machines used in the two hospitals, they first had to undergo training on the machines. Once the Williams Lake nurses were comfortable using the machines, one UHNBC nurse was paired with them to help troubleshoot and support the Williams Lake staff.

By moving UHNBC patients into the main room and moving overflow patients to the Parkwood Independent Dialysis Unit, they set up a small dialysis unit within the hemodialysis unit operating five chairs from 7:00am – 7:00pm to support the Williams Lake patients. Accompanied by one UHNBC nurse, the nurses from Williams Lake staffed the unit, allowing them to work with patients they were familiar with. It was a welcome sight for both staff and patients and brought back a sense of normalcy in such a stressful time.

The entire team worked together collaboratively and offered support and assistance where they could. Managers took on administrative duties, emergency operation centre meetings, and HR tasks usually designated to clinical practice leads or head nurses. Nursing unit clerks were shared between the kidney clinic and hemodialysis unit, and staff were more than willing to work extra shifts when needed to ensure patients were receiving treatments.

Numerous staff and physicians brought in food, cards, flowers, and treats to thank everyone for their contributions and make the Williams Lake nurses feel welcome and part of the team. Staff’s extra support and dedication helped to make the hemodialysis unit function effectively despite the additional patients and pressures. They were willing to cancel vacation, work overtime, assist other facilitates, and work together in any way they could.

One telephone call changed the entire course of the 2017 summer for the hemodialysis staff, managers, and physicians. They welcomed 18 additional patients, and new staff all within a matter of days with no disruption to services. It demonstrated the strength of their resolve and showcased their collaborative nature, and was an experience that left a lasting impression on everyone involved.

Tamara Reichert

About Tamara Reichert

Tamara is the communications advisor for the innovation and development commons at Northern Health where she works on a number of projects with the research, quality improvement, clinical simulation, and education teams. Born and raised in Prince George, Tamara grew up on a ranch where she rode horses, played with farm animals, built forts, and raided the family garden. She enjoys spending time travelling, hiking, cooking, reading, and cheering for her favourite sports teams.

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Partnering to make nature more accessible

Northern Health’s IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to a variety of groups with projects that make northern communities healthier. Our hope is that these innovative projects inspire healthy community actions where you live! Check out the story below and read more IMAGINE Community Grant stories.


People on nature trail

Access North Days encouraged seniors, residents, tourists, and the general public – particularly those with mobility issues – to come out and experience universally accessible outdoor recreation opportunities such as parks, trails, and regional attractions.

This past July, I had the pleasure of attending the grand opening of the expanded Great-West Life Mobility Trail, located at the Tabor Mountain Recreation Society (TMRS) Dougherty Creek Trail, just south of Prince George. The event was hosted by the Tabor Mountain Recreation Society and Spinal Cord Injury BC to coincide with Spinal Cord Injury BC’s Access North Day. The IMAGINE grants program has partnered with both of these groups doing great things to support universal access to outdoor recreation in our region.

During the grand opening event, there were a number of people in wheelchairs or with walking supports who were able to enjoy the trail with their family and friends. They could access all parts of the trail without any obstacles. It was great to see everyone enjoying nature on such a beautiful trail!

Who’s involved?

  • TMRS is a not-for-profit organization made up of volunteers who are dedicated to the maintenance and growth of Tabor Mountain as a recreational facility for everyone to enjoy. Eight local and provincial recreational clubs are also society members. They are users of the trails and have a vested interest in the protection and maintenance of the area. TMRS received an IMAGINE Legacy grant in 2015 to support the purchase of marketing and promotion supplies to promote the amazing outdoor trail network and opportunities that this group of volunteers have been working on.

“The Great-West Life Mobility Nature Trail was created for seniors and mobility challenged individuals to experience the great outdoors in a safe and friendly environment … The exposure to the community and visitors to the community through our strategy of using your grant (IMAGINE) for marketing has created results beyond our expectations.” -Randy Ellenchuk, President, Tabor Mountain Recreation Society.

  • Spinal Cord Injury BC (SCI BC) helps people with spinal cord injury and related physical disabilities adjust, adapt, and thrive as they deal with a new injury or struggle with the ongoing challenges of living and aging with a disability. SCI BC received an IMAGINE grant this past spring to support Access North Day celebrations taking place throughout the north. The purpose of the events was to encourage seniors, residents, tourists, and the general public – particularly those with mobility issues – to come out and experience universally accessible outdoor recreation opportunities such as parks, trails, and regional attractions. Another focus of the project was to build capacity through networking and sharing knowledge about universal design and accessibility, which is why the partnership with Tabor Mountain Recreation Society proved to be an excellent match!

A trail accessible for everyone

Fast forward to our recent Thanksgiving long weekend and I took the opportunity to visit the Dougherty Creek Trail again.

This time, I brought my mom and our dogs for the walk and it was just as great as the first time I had visited! For my mom, who has a chronic disease and cannot walk trails that have even minor elevation changes, this one is perfect for her. The walking paths are very smooth and flat, and there are a number of benches, picnic tables, and gazebos along the way. It really is accessible for everyone and it’s a bonus that it can accommodate our furry friends.

I should also mention that a fun feature to the trail is the many little figures and gnomes that are hidden along the trail paths to find. We actually went around twice and noticed different items each time!

As Northern Health’s lead for community granting, being invited to attend community events or visit project locations is one of the best parts of my role. Seeing the impact of the IMAGINE funds at the community level and watching project ideas grow into these great initiatives really makes me happy to be part of this work. I feel like this story is especially wonderful to share because it shows what can be done through the power of community partnerships and when groups are committed to work together to achieve common goals that will improve the health of the community.

Keep your eye on both of these organizations – I bet they have more ideas planned for our region!

What can you do to improve the health of your community and who can you partner with to make it happen?


IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to community organizations, service agencies, First Nations bands and organizations, schools, municipalities, regional districts, not-for-profits, and other partners with projects that make northern communities healthier. We are looking for applications that will support our efforts to prevent chronic disease and injury, and improve overall well-being in our communities. The deadline for the next cycle of IMAGINE Community Grants is October 31, 2016.

Mandy Levesque

About Mandy Levesque

Mandy Levesque is Northern Health’s Lead, Healthy Community Development, Integrated Community Granting. Born and raised in northern Manitoba, Mandy and her family moved to Prince George in 2013. Mandy has a background in public health and health promotion and is a graduate of the University of Saskatchewan. She is passionate about innovation and quality, empowering northern populations, and promoting health and wellness across communities. In her spare time, Mandy enjoys spending time with her family and stays active by taking in the exciting activities, trails, and events northern B.C. has to offer.

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