Manitoba’s health minister, top doctor plead for health-care workers to pick up shifts over holidays

Manitoba’s health minister and chief provincial public health officer made a plea to health-care workers to consider picking up shifts over the holidays, with intensive care units already stretched and an increase in respiratory illnesses expected over the holidays.

During a hastily called Saturday afternoon news conference at the Manitoba Legislature, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said ICUs — including the pediatric unit — are over capacity right now.

The number of people sick with COVID-19 and influenza is likely to increase in the coming days, Roussin said.

While staffing levels are currently stable, some nurses with the appropriate skill set have been asked to move to ICUs to provide additional care, he said.

“We need to scale up that capacity and we need that staff to continue providing the excellent care that they have been for Manitobans for so long now,” he said. 

Health Minister Uzoma Asagwara acknowledged officials are making “a big ask” of health-care workers. 

But “we would appreciate greatly if these folks could find the capacity. If you do have capacity, if you have the ability to pick up any extra shifts, we’re hoping that you can do so,” they said.

An internal memo from Shared Health sent out Friday night and obtained by CBC News also said organ donations and transfer of patients from northwestern Ontario are temporarily suspended as Winnipeg ICUs struggle with capacity. 

CBC News has reached out to Shared Health for comment. 

‘Please take the time’ to get vaccinated

The province is also continuing to ask members of the public who have not yet been vaccinated, or are behind on their updated shots, to do so.

Asagwara said adult and pediatric ICUs aren’t just seeing more patients with illnesses like COVID-19 and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) — the patients coming in with those illnesses are also now sicker.

The health minister encouraged anyone who’s sick to stay home, and to wear a mask if symptomatic.

“It’s so important that we think about kids and folks who are vulnerable,” they said. 

Asagwara urged people who are sick to stay home, and encouraged anyone who is symptomatic to wear a mask. (Prabhjot Singh Lotey/CBC)

Roussin said the province is working to ensure there is adequate space available for those who need critical care and to increase capacity for patient transfers.

But he also encouraged Manitobans to get their flu and COVID-19 shots.

“It’s definitely not too late to get vaccinated,” he said during the news conference. 

“Please take the time.”

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