Manitoba Historical Society
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MHS Centennial Organization: Portage Health Auxiliary

The Portage la Prairie Health Auxiliary originated in the late 1880s when a train passenger passing through the city, suffering from an infectious disease requiring emergency medical attention, was removed from the train. A group of compassionate and community-minded women appealed to the rural council, proposing the use of a building that had been intended as a court house but which stood empty, to be made available for the care of the ill passenger. It was further proposed that the building could also be used as a care facility for the community at large. With the endorsement of the council, the building was made available and the women set about collecting the necessary furniture, bedding and other materiel, and thus the first hospital in Portage la Prairie was established.

The informal group gained formal recognition as the Portage Ladies Hospital Aid Society when the Portage Hospital was officially opened in 1899. In those early years, the ladies sewed all the hospital linens and supplied patients with blankets, gowns, and slippers. When a School of Nursing was established in 1901, the Portage Hospital Aid sponsored the School by hosting social events and graduations, and provided furnishings for the school residents. Fundraising projects have been, and continue to be, a major function of the group, all aimed at the care and comfort of the patient. In more recent years, the Health Auxiliary has helped the Hospital to acquire equipment that would normally be out of reach financially. In 1960 a cart service was implemented to serve patients on the wards and, in 1976, a gift shop was opened.

These activities continue to be maintained by the Auxiliary and community volunteers. Since 1967, the Auxiliary has sponsored a bursary to deserving Portage high school students beginning nurse training. In 1969, the organization took on the name Portage Health Auxiliary to synchronize with the provincial organization of Manitoba Health Auxiliaries. Today, the group serves the Portage la Prairie area comprising some 30,000 people with dedication and enthusiasm. The Auxiliary has made tangible and essential enhancements to the quality of health care in south-central Manitoba.

An MHS Centennial Organization Award was presented by Gordon Goldsborough to President Carol Baldaro, Treasurer Valerie Bills, and members Iris Egan, Maisie Moon and Jean Michalenka, on 19 April 2009.

Page revised: 15 May 2011

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