Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, Manitoba has been on a journey filled 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 pandemic that has hit health care hard in the province.
“One thing this pandemic has shown us is how precarious 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 consecutive waves or influxes of patients requiring hospital care
“Our health care system has been designed over years and through consultative processes to try to make it so refined that it operates at 95-98% capacity all the time, so that it can’t even really respond to a bad flu season let alone a global pandemic,” Lagace-Wiens said.
He said increasing capacity requires investment.
“You have to accept that there will be additional costs that won’t necessarily be 98% utilized,” he said.
Dr. Bob Bell, Ontario’s former deputy minister of health and long-term care, said the surge capacity problem is not isolated to Manitoba.
His idea is to build intermediate or transitional care centers in the system to free up space and hospital resources.
“It’s cheaper than hospitals. We don’t have to worry about labs. We don’t have to worry about operating rooms. We don’t need the same mix of skills from all nursing staff that we often see on hospital units,” Bell said.
Darlene Jackson, president of the Manitoba Nurses Union, said there also needs to be ways to keep the doctors, nurses and home care staff we have in the province, because training new people is a long term solution.
“We are facing a global, and certainly national, nursing shortage, so other provinces are actively competing to hire nurses from us,” Jackson said.
Meanwhile, virologist Jason Kindrachuk said other important lessons learned are airborne transmission of COVID-19 and measuring spread through sewage.
“We have to take them out of Covid and move them forward for other emerging viruses because, listen, this is not the last pandemic and certainly not the last emerging virus that we’re going to see,” Kindrachuk said.
As for transition beds, a spokesperson for Shared Health says there are 279 in the province.
The spokesperson said the beds typically serve patients with lower needs for a limited time before being sent home or to a long-term care facility.