It could take weeks to get the operating rooms at St. Boniface General Hospital back up and running, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s top medical official said today.
"This is a very significant event, to have all 14 operating rooms at St. Boniface out of commission," said Dr. Brock Wright, chief medical officer for the WRHA.
"I don’t think this is a situation that will be resolved in days," Wright told reporters at a press conference Thursday at WRHA’s downtown offices. "I think it’s more like to be measured in weeks."
All of the operating rooms at St. Boniface were flooded early yesterday morning in an event that Wright said he couldn’t recall ever happening before in Winnipeg.
"It is a serious issue. St. Boniface is the second-largest hospital in the province and it’s one of two tertiary care hospitals so to have all the ORs out of commission is a significant event," Wright said.
Two unrelated mechanical glitches happened just before the flooding started;one of the two is believed to be responsible for the mess.
At about 6:30 a.m. the air-handling system went down during a routine test of the hospital’s back-up generator system. Wright said as far as he knew there were no reports of power outages at the time that could have contributed to the air-ventilation malfunction.
At the same time -- but unrelated to the air handling system -- the building’s circulation pumps, which serve the operating rooms through a series of reheating coils, malfunctioned. Some of the coils burst, sending a cascade of water into the operating rooms.
There has been no estimate yet on the cost of repairs, Wright said.
Domino effect at other hospitals
St. Boniface cancelled 22 surgeries yesterday and moved one cardiac surgery occurring when the flood started to the Health Sciences Centre. That patient is reported to be recovering. Two emergency surgeries were redirected to Grace Hospital.
As of early afternoon today, another 37 surgeries had been cancelled at St. Boniface, seven orthopedic cases were postponed at the Grace and two more on Monday will be postponed. At Health Sciences Centre, 10 cases have been postponed so far, Wright said.
"Every day until this situation is resolved, anesthesiology and surgery leadership are meeting and deciding what surgeries they’ll cancel the next day. We’re taking it day by day," Wright said.
Wright said the city’s surgeons are calling patients whose cases are being moved out of St. Boniface and letting them know if they are headed to Grace or Health Sciences Centre.
Most cardiac cases will be redirected to HSC. Orthopedics will go to Grace.
Selective elective surgeries are being postponed to make room for surgeries that can no longer be done at St. Boniface.
Babies will still be born at St. Boniface and Caesarean sections are still being performed there, since the operating-room facilities for obstetrics weren’t affected. Some cardiac procedures that aren’t done in operating rooms, such as angioplasties, are also going ahead at St. Boniface.