Coronavirus: What the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed about Manitoba’s health-care system

Coronavirus: What the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed about Manitoba’s health-care system

Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, Manitoba has gone trough a journey with unprecedented challenges.

Since the start of the pandemic, Manitoba has reported more than 130,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 1,700 deaths.

These statistics measure a two-year-long pandemic that’s hit health care in the province hard.

“One thing this pandemic has shown us is how tenuous our health-care system is,” said Dr. Kristjan Thompson, president of Doctors Manitoba,

According to Dr. Philippe Lagace-Wiens, a medical microbiologist, the system was not ready for the back-to-back waves or surges of patients needing hospital care

“Our health-care system has been designed over years and years and through consultation processes to try and get it so refined that it works at 95 to 98 per cent capacity all the time, so it can’t even really respond to a bad influenza season let alone a global pandemic,” said Lagace-Wiens.

He said increasing capacity requires investment.

“You have to accept that there is going to be some extra cost that isn’t necessarily utilized at 98 per cent,” he said.

Dr. Bob Bell, former Ontario deputy minister of health and long-term care, said the surge capacity issue isn’t isolated to Manitoba.

His idea is to build intermediate or transitional-care centres into the system to free up hospital space and resources.

“It’s less expensive than hospitals. We don’t have to worry about the labs. We don’t have to worry about the ORs. We don’t need the same skill mix of all RN staff that we often see in hospital units,” Bell said

Darlene Jackson, president of the Manitoba Nurses Union, said what’s also needed are ways to keep the physicians, nurses and homecare staff we have in the province, because training new people is a long-term solution.

“We’re in a global nursing shortage, and for sure a national one, so other provinces are actively vying to hire nurses away from us,” Jackson said.

At the same time, virologist Jason Kindrachuk said other important lessons learned are the airborne transmission of COVID-19, and measuring the spread through wastewater.

“We have to take those out of Covid and move those forward for other emerging viruses because, listen, this is not the last pandemic and certainly not the last emerging virus we are going to see,” Kindrachuk said.

As for transitional beds, a Shared Health spokesperson says there are 279 in the province.

The spokesperson said the beds generally serve patients with fewer needs for a limited amount of time before being they are sent home or to a long-term care facility.



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