News & Events

20 Years of Manitoba Renal Program

It was in 1998, that the Manitoba Provincial Dialysis Program was mandated by Manitoba Health (under the umbrella of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority) to provide care for all adult patients receiving dialysis therapies in Manitoba.

While many dialysis units had been operating independently within their own facilities, there was inevitably collaboration between all units throughout Winnipeg and Manitoba. To facilitate more standardized care and smoother transitions for renal patients throughout the province, the overarching dialysis program was created. In 2002, the program’s name changed to Manitoba Renal Program (MRP).

“Kidney disease affects many Manitobans, regardless of where they live. A coordinated approach to kidney health care makes patient needs the priority,” explains Dr. Mauro Verrelli, MRP Medical Director.

The vision of the program included creating a uniform standard of high quality care, providing equitable access to all therapies and resources, developing outreach and prevention initiatives and building a provincial renal database in addition to planning dialysis expansions according to patient population growth.
There has been no shortage of need for dialysis services over the last 20 years. In 1999 the program was serving about 741home and in-centre dialysis patients throughout the province. That number has grown to more than 1,700 in 2018. For in-centre patients alone, the program runs about 4,000 dialysis treatments a week or about 16,000 hours of dialysis.

“With new patients entering our program continuously, it’s important to be able to give the best care possible while simultaneously working on getting them back home or as close to home as possible.”

The program has worked with regional health authorities and the Manitoba government to keep up with the growing demand for dialysis services. Since 1998, eight new dialysis units have been built. These includes expansions in major hospitals and new units in rural areas. During this time other units also expanded their capacity. There are currently four major centres providing dialysis through multiple units in their facilities and an additional 16 local renal health centres throughout Manitoba. The most northern unit is located in Thompson. Since 1998 the rural renal health centre patient population has grown from 70 people to nearly 300.

Another area of growth over the last 20 years has been the expansion of home dialysis programs. Home hemodialysis programs were added during the last ten years while additional peritoneal dialysis (PD) programs were also developed. The home dialysis patient population has grown from 198 in 1999 to 391 in 2018.

MRP Medical Director Dr. Mauro Verrelli

Manitoba Renal Program also cares for patients with varying stages of kidney disease who are not on dialysis. These kidney health clinics are located in Winnipeg, Brandon and Thompson. Alongside the introduction of eGFR (estimated Glomerular Filtration Rate) reporting on standard lab results, primary care outreach, and growing rates of kidney disease, MRP has seen an increase in referrals over the last six years. This amounts to about 1,000 more early stage kidney disease patients today than in 2012. Currently, the interdisciplinary clinics manage more than more than 5,400 people who have stages one to five kidney disease.

Unfortunately the growth of these patient populations in unlikely to slow down any time soon.

Diabetes and high blood pressure are the leading causes of kidney disease in Canada. Manitoba has some of the highest rates of end-stage kidney disease in Canada and sees annual growth in the number of dialysis patients.

The program has partnered with several researchers on projects that aim to bring more early diagnosis and opportunities for treatment to all areas of Manitoba, including rural and remote regions.

“We are always focused on providing the highest quality care to our dialysis patients, but at the same time we want to see less people needing dialysis and partner wherever possible on screening initiatives that can help with preventing or delaying the progression of kidney disease,” says Dr. Verrelli.

The program also continues to adopt new, innovative technology that makes home dialysis an option for more people. Technology, accessibility and prevention will be key areas of focus over the coming years.

“There is a lot of innovation happening, from dialysis equipment to models of prediction to improve the timing of kidney disease interventions,” explains Dr. Verrelli.

 “The global community of kidney health care providers has really come together to share information and look for better ways to provide care and the renal program is proud to be working alongside them.”



Read the MRP 2017-2018 Year In Review.

(Written by Amie Lesyk – MRP Communications)


Fall Session of LKKM Exercise Program Open for Registration

The fall session of Lean Keen Kidney Machines is starting mid-September. Registration starts now! LKKM helps people living with all stages of kidney disease incorporate more physical activity into their lives which can have positive impacts on their health.

Brandon Regional Health Centre’s Dialysis Unit Now Operating Seven Days a Week

In response to increased need for hemodialysis spots in Manitoba, the Brandon Regional Health Center (BRHC) renal unit became the first unit in Manitoba to move to Sunday dialysis. This is being accomplished without any additional equipment or beds. The addition of Sunday shifts allows the BRHC 18 bed renal unit to increase a total of one patient per machine.  This means Brandon is accommodating an additional 18 patients.  Currently 114 patients are receiving dialysis per week.

The transition required some realigning of patient schedules as well as unit staff.  Although not an easy process the dedication to meet this demand was a team effort.  The seven days a week schedule begin in May. “Thank you to the patients and staff for working together to facilitate this innovative and fiscally responsible way to continue to provide quality care to all those who need it,” Kim Wallis, Manager for Ambulatory Care at the Brandon Regional Health Centre.

Brandon is the only unit operating seven days a week. Other units in Manitoba operate six days a week with two to three daily shifts of dialysis treatments.

Renal Patient Feedback Group 2018 Meetings

Renal Patient meetings are being held at Health Sciences Centre, Seven Oaks General Hospital, St. Boniface Hospital and via teleconference for all other dialysis units.

Cy Bona – 92 Year Old Dialysis Patient Serenades in Unit Waiting Rooms

Music has always been part of 92-year-old Cyril Bona’s life. From the time he was a teenager, he loved to play and sing. But it took a bit of courage for him to get used to playing for others.

“At first I was very shy about going on stage and playing and singing,” he remembers. “I found that it brings so much joy to people, so I kept going at it.”

Cyril, who goes by Cy, sings and plays pretty much every day. From karaoke nights or church, to playing at his local army and navy legion, the senior’s calendar is packed full of singing gigs.

Since he started dialysis treatments at Health Sciences Centre in January 2018, he even started bringing his guitar to play and sing in the dialysis unit waiting rooms.

He says dialysis has made him feel better and given him the energy to keep up his singing schedule.

“Anybody who is afraid of dialysis, they don’t need to be afraid of it. It will save your life and make you feel better. It’s worth it.” He also credits his doctors and nurses for helping with the transition.

“The nurses and doctors are so great. It’s taken all the stress away.”

Valerie Williams is a friend of Cy’s who sings and plays with him in the dialysis unit waiting rooms. She was initially worried about Cy having to on dialysis.

“I was concerned for you when dialysis was going to start in January,” she says, sitting beside Cy. “It hasn’t slowed you down. If anything I think you’ve sped up.”

Valarie and Cy met at an open mic night and right away Valarie hoped they would get to sing together.

“Do you remember what you said to me?” She asks Cy. “You said, I generally don’t sing with anyone.” The pair laughs as they recall the moment.

Valarie and Cy have been making YouTube videos of their singing and playing with some hopes to get the attention of Ellen DeGeneres. Cy admits he never p

planned on being a YouTube star, but if it involves singing and playing than he is up for it.

Apart from singing, he also volunteers on top of his dialysis schedule which is five hours in hospital, three times a week.

Cy is a second world war veteran who joined the army at age 18 and spent time in the air force. He was born in Halifax but has been a long-time Winnipeg resident.

At the age of 92, Cy continues to make the most of each day with no plans of slowing down.

“I’m 92 years of age, but I feel like I’m only 91,” he jokes. He says that his lifetime of experience has led him to looking for the positives in every day.

“I’ve been all through a shooting war and about five car write offs and I say to people – look, you’re lucky to be alive. What more could you want in life than that.”

Click here for more YouTube videos of Cy and Valarie!