Manitoba adding ICU beds as effects of third wave hit hospitals

Manitoba hospitals are ramping up critical care systems as an influx of patients in the past two weeks is beginning to strain intensive care units.

The third wave of the coronavirus pandemic has begun to put more people in hospital, many of them younger than in past waves, which has triggered the need to add more ICU beds.

The province is currently staffing 115 ICU beds and adding 19 more to four hospitals in the coming days.

“The situation is changing rapidly,” Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer for Manitoba Shared Health, said during a Friday morning technical briefing on the evolving situation.

On Sunday alone, 10 people were admitted to Manitoba hospitals, which came as a surprise based on daily hospitalization averages and test positivity rates leading up to then, said another health official at the briefing. (The briefing was provided with the condition that only Siragusa be named and quoted.)

Some non-urgent elective surgeries will be cancelled or postponed as surgery and medical staff are redeployed to help out in intensive care units.

Many of the patients landing in hospital right now tend to be younger than in past waves, officials said. Patients are staying longer in hospital, and the ratio of those with active infections compared those who are no longer infectious but remain in hospital has increased, they said.

Siragusa and Dr. Jazz Atwal, acting deputy chief provincial public health officer, will hold a public news conference at 12:30 p.m. CT. CBC will stream the conference on our website, Facebook, Twitter and Gem.

Manitoba public health officials on Thursday reported 185 hospitalizations, including 52 patients in intensive care units, due to COVID-19. The highest number of total COVID-19 hospitalizations on record is 404, on Dec. 16, during the peak of the pandemic’s second wave.

Pandemic modelling data obtained by CBC News suggests the province expects the number of COVID-19 patients in its intensive care units to exceed the peak of the pandemic’s second wave by the end of the May long weekend, and the number could double again before summer.

Siragusa has not made an appearance at a COVID-19 briefing since February.

She spoke in court earlier this week, testifying at a court case launched by seven rural churches and three individuals who are challenging the public health restrictions imposed by the province of Manitoba in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin is testifying today.