Manitoba transfers 2 COVID-19 ICU patients to Ontario due to ‘extreme strain’ on resources

The risk of hitting critical care capacity at Manitoba hospitals has led to two COVID-19 patients in ICU from Manitoba being transferred to Ontario for care.

A spokesperson from Manitoba Shared Health confirmed to Global News the two patients, both described as COVID-19 positive and in stable condition, were transferred to Thunder Bay Tuesday.

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“These transfers gave us some much needed capacity in the immediate term while planning continues to shore up staffing resources within our ICUs,” the spokesperson said in an email Wednesday.

“Over the past week, Manitoba’s hospitals have been dealing with a significant increase in admissions, to both medicine units and ICUs.

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Manitoba becomes Canada’s COVID-19 hot spot

“The compounding effect of multiple days of admissions well over the norm and far beyond what we experienced during wave two has placed extreme strain on our staffing resources.”

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The spokesperson said the decision to transfer the patients came after Manitoba ICUs admitted 34 COVID-19 patients in a 96-hour period between May 13 and 17.

“To put into context, that is nearly half of our normal pre-COVID baseline capacity (72) in critical care for our province. This does not include patients who require care in an ICU for non-COVID reasons,” the spokesperson said.

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“Yesterday, this combination of continued high admissions, no ICU patients that were sufficiently recovered for a move to a medicine ward, and an increase in the number of very sick patients in our medical wards at risk of needing to be transferred into ICU placed our critical care capacity at significant risk.”

On Monday Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer with Manitoba Shared Health, said she expects the demand for intensive care beds to soon reach a record level as COVID-19 numbers continue to rise in the pandemic’s third wave.

At the time there were 120 patients in intensive care beds, nine shy of the peak last December during the second wave of the pandemic.

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Manitoba COVID-19 modelling shows dire outlook

“I expect we’re going to get to 129 very soon, the way we’re admitting people,” Siragusa said.

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Until the case numbers drop, the province is working to add staff to intensive care from other health-care areas. Some elective surgeries are being cancelled and more nurses are being recruited and trained for intensive care work.

Health officials have also said some COVID-19 patients are being transferred from hospitals to personal care homes in Manitoba, and on Wednesday Shared Health said COVID-19 patients are also being moved to other hospitals within the province to open up space in tertiary and acute care facilities.

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“This includes moving patients from Winnipeg to beds outside the city and moving patients between facilities in rural Manitoba to a location that is able to meet their care needs,” the Shared Health spokesperson said Wednesday.

“While every effort will be made to consider preferred location, this will not always be able to be guaranteed during this time.”

–With files from Brittany Greenslade and The Canadian Press

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Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

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To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.

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