COVID-19 intensive care patients continue to put an intense strain on Manitoba's healthcare system, causing the pause on procedures and tests for tens of thousands of Manitobans.

Shared Health Provincial COVID-19 Operations Chief and Health Services' Acute Inpatient Services Executive Director Monika Warren says in a Wednesday press conference that 46 nurses have left their intensive care post recently. While some of those people have retired, others did not. She is disappointed to see the highly-trained specialists go.

"Our workforce is tired. The pandemic has turned their work and personal lives upside down while many Manitobans have returned to some form of normal," Warren says in a Wednesday morning press conference encouraging Manitobans to get a third COVID-19 vaccine. "This is really challenging for our teams. They are working in different ways than they are used to."

Dr. Jazz Atwal, Manitoba's Deputy Public Health Officer, says cases Manitoba might be plateauing at the moment, but the future is uncertain. 

"Seeing a five to 10 per cent increase in cases wouldn't surprise me, but it is really hard to know," Atwal says.

Thirty-four of Manitoba's 98 intensive care beds are being used by COVID-19 patients, most of whom are not vaccinated. Warren says surgical care needs to be ramped down to accommodate an expansion of intensive care beds. Warren says they will be working with nurses to determine how to increase ICU capacity.

"We are still continuing to work on moving patients who do not need that high acuity care anymore and moving them to another setting that is low acuity care," Warren says.

Warren says Manitoba has the capacity to care for the patients they have and will not be sending patients out of the province.


Task Force

On Tuesday, Doctors Manitoba said that in November, every day their list of backlogs grew by more than 100 cases. They were hopeful a task force, established by the province, would address this. They say there are more than 152,000 backlogged cases of surgeries and diagnostic tests.

Thirteen people make up the brand-new Diagnostic and Surgical Recovery Task Force's steering committee being announced by Health Minister Audrey Gordon Wednesday.

gordonMinister Audrey Gordon says that the newly-announced task force will have meaningful results. (Screenshot: Government of Manitoba/YouTube)

"While much good progress has been achieved as a health system, we know that there is still much work to do because we know that issue of deferred care will emerge as we look after our pandemic," Gordon says in the Wednesday press conference.

Part of the task force's responsibilities includes identifying priority needs and looking at the potential for out-of-province care. It also will include creating a centralized information system for waitlists, looking to expand patient resources with staff ability, and if procedures can be done in other jurisdictions. 

dr ed buchelDr. Ed Buchel, the task force's surgical specialist, says patient transfers outside of Manitoba will be based on need. (Screenshot: Government of Manitoba/YouTube)

This task force's steering committee makes up medical doctors, surgeons, Indigenous representatives, a nurse, and others. Their work has already started. The province says they are identifying and implementing short- and long-term solutions.

Work began in the summer of 2020 to address the backlogs in procedures including cataract surgery, echocardiography, hernia surgery, pediatric dental surgery, spine surgeries and endoscopies.