Manitoban with COVID-19 dies after attempt at transport out of province for care

A Manitoban with COVID-19 has died after an attempt was made to transport the patient out of the province to receive care.

“A medically stable but critically ill patient who was identified for transport to an Ontario hospital did destabilize prior to takeoff earlier this week,” a spokesperson for Shared Health said in an email statement.

“The patient was provided with care by the critical care transport team and immediately returned to the sending facility. We can confirm the patient passed away the following day.”

Patients who are transferred out of the province are carefully assessed by the critical care team and detailed discussions happen between the teams sending and receiving the patient, the statement said.

Rapid deterioration and death of COVID-19 patients requiring critical care is not uncommon and cannot be predicted, whether in the intensive care unit or during transport, the spokesperson said.

Manitoba patients were first flown out of the province to hospitals in Ontario last week. As of Tuesday, 18 patients had been sent to hospitals in Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Ottawa, Sudbury, London, Windsor, North Bay and Owen Sound.

For weeks, Manitoba’s health system has struggled to make room for increasing numbers of COVID-19 patients needing intensive care.

Opposition Leader Wab Kinew spoke of the death in question period at the Manitoba Legislature on Wednesday, calling on the provincial government to ensure the safety of sick patients when transferring them between facilities.

“It is a great risk to transfer these patients. It must only be done as a last resort,” the NDP leader said.

“We need to know that every precaution, every measure is taken to keep these patients safe.”

Brian Pallister said he wasn’t aware of the death, but transportation for health care is done all the time.

“These are perilous times,” he said. “We are doing everything we can to care for our patients in the best possible way.”

The number of intensive care unit spaces has more than doubled since the pandemic started, as hospitals postponed operations and converted space to create new ICU beds. 

Saskatchewan health officials said Tuesday that they planned to take at least one Manitoba COVID-19 patient, with potentially more to come in the next few days.