Manitoba doctors worried about Omicron surge in hospitals

Manitoba is already seeing a record level of hospitalizations related to COVID-19 and hundreds more are expected in the coming weeks.

The Public Health Agency of Canada released its prediction for the Omicron wave, and the forecast for close to 200 new daily COVID-19 hospitalizations has Dr. Renate Singh worried we’re headed for what she called an emerging mass casualty situation.

“It’s not like we didn’t know that, but it is shocking and sobering to see it on paper,” said Dr. Renate Singh, an anesthesiologist who works for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and Shared Health.

She said it reframes the message that has been given to Manitobans this week at provincial news conferences.

“I don’t think this kind of picture was made clear enough in the explanation of our current provincial situation,” she told CTV News Friday.

Friday’s COVID-19 update shows there are 517 Manitobans in hospital with the virus, an increase of 18 from the day before.

Singh said the PHAC prediction could be offset by discharges, but they can also be compounded by people needing hospital care for other reasons or people who are discharged who need to come back to the hospital.

“We are destined, I’m afraid, to be in quite a pickle in terms of taking care of everyone who needs us,” Singh said.

Dr. Kristjan Thompson, president of Doctors Manitoba, said on Thursday part of the anxiety doctors have is not knowing what the plan is for when the hospital system runs out of bed capacity.

“I fear for scenarios where we are in a situation where it’s a crisis standard of care,” he said.

Singh said she feels the same, as there have been recent days where the Grace Hospital ER had double the number of patients in the space than what it was designed to hold. She said she and her colleagues talk daily about what may happen if there isn’t space for people.

“Where are they going to go? Do we have a field hospital somewhere we haven’t been told about yet? Are they going to be reclaiming every spare space?”

The PHAC modelling also predicts the Omicron wave to peak during January.

Dr. Singh said Manitobans need to do everything in their power to prevent from getting infected during this critical period, because it stretches out the pandemic and the impact on the health-care system. 

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