05/15/2013 05:47 EDT | Updated 07/15/2013 05:12 EDT

Promised in 2010, Manitoba's health bus is almost ready to hit the road

WINNIPEG - It's two years behind schedule, but the Manitoba government's promised health-care bus will be on the road by the end of the year, Health Minister Theresa Oswald said Wednesday.

"It'll be based in Russell and will visit a number of small communities in the vicinity," Oswald said.

The mobile primary-care clinic was first promised in the NDP government's 2010 throne speech. The idea is to bring diagnostic services such as blood-sugar tests, as well as health-care advice, to outlying communities.

The project was pushed back to 2012 and, later, to this year as the province sought to overcome technical hurdles. One of the chief concerns was ensuring that the bus could be equipped with enough backup electrical power to protect equipment from the cold in the event of a breakdown.

The project was also delayed because the government decided to include an X-ray machine, which meant finding a way to shield staff from repeated exposure.

"That required a bit of a modification," Oswald said, "but work is coming along quite beautifully."

The bus will be staffed by a nurse and a nurse practitioner. Eventually, two more buses will be added to serve southern Manitoba and the Interlake region.

"As we gain more experience, we will be able to extend our reach," Oswald said.