Health-care facilities activate emergency plans

Saul and Claribel Simkin Centre CEO Laurie Cerqueti has been prepared to stay overnight to help care for seniors throughout the pandemic, but the cause of her first sleepover is the spring snowstorm threatening to bury Winnipeg and southern Manitoba.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/04/2022 (236 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Saul and Claribel Simkin Centre CEO Laurie Cerqueti has been prepared to stay overnight to help care for seniors throughout the pandemic, but the cause of her first sleepover is the spring snowstorm threatening to bury Winnipeg and southern Manitoba.

Cerqueti, who has had a packed bag and a pillow on standby in her office for more than two years, slept in her office Tuesday night and planned to camp out there again Wednesday and, likely, Thursday.

“I’m hoping to get home on Friday,” Cerqueti said. “It is what it is. I’m staying until this is done.”

And she’s not alone.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Laurie Cerqueti, who has had a packed bag and a pillow on standby in her office for more than two years, slept in her office Tuesday night.

The dire weather predictions have led some staff in hospitals and personal-care homes across the city to remain where they are in order to ensure people in their care are looked after if other employees can’t get back Thursday or Friday because of hazardous travel conditions.

“Health-care workers have been asked to plan ahead and make every reasonable effort to ensure they are able to report to work as scheduled,” a Shared Health spokesman said Wednesday.

“Accommodation options are being identified for staff who may not be able to travel home due to the storm, as well as those who may be required to work longer than scheduled in order to maintain appropriate staffing levels. Call-outs for staff who are not scheduled to work but may be willing and able to pick up shifts are also being made.”

Shared Health said most of the elective and non-urgent surgeries in the city that had been scheduled Wednesday afternoon and Thursday in the city have been postponed and will be rescheduled.

As well, the spokesman said outpatient appointments at Health Sciences Centre were being rescheduled, save for those conducted virtually.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority implemented its severe weather response plan for community health services, including home care. In a statement, the WRHA said most home-care clients would not receive scheduled visits Wednesday night or Thursday morning unless they are considered high risk. Clients were being asked to initiate their backup plans for care.

The WRHA said its ACCESS Centres would be open, but have only minimal staff; nursing clinics have been cancelled for Thursday.

Concordia Hospital was among some health-care facilities that solicited help to get snowbound staff members to work. A message was sent seeking volunteer drivers with trucks, SUVs or snowmobiles. “Assisting in this way would ensure that we can maintain adequate staffing levels in the hospital throughout the storm,” it said.

No one from the hospital responded to a Free Press request for comment, but Winnipeg Police Service Const. Dani McKinnon said a city bylaw makes snowmobiling inside the Perimeter illegal.

“There are a few exceptions… but they are very far and few between and no exceptions are being considered at this time,” she said.

Elsewhere, a convoy was organized by some residents to get staff to and from the Boundary Trails Health Centre, which sits in an open, windswept area between Morden and Winkler.

The Women’s Health Clinic closed its Graham Avenue location Wednesday afternoon and hadn’t determined whether it would be closed Thursday. Its facility on Portage Avenue. as well as Ode’imin, formerly known as The Birth Centre, open providing essential services.

“Many hours went into planning, strategizing, reallocating resources and staff to essential sites, as the storm is happening in a period already shortened by holidays,” WHC spokeswoman Kristen Einarson said.

“If our essential services had to close, this could be catastrophic for some clients as the hospital routes are not accepting any patients until next week, in some cases. Community health organizations are critical when it comes to providing care in times of emergency.”

“Many hours went into planning, strategizing, reallocating resources and staff to essential sites, as the storm is happening in a period already shortened by holidays.” – WHC spokeswoman Kristen Einarson

Jan Legeros, the Long Term and Continuing Care Association of Manitoba’s executive director, said all personal-care homes have emergency-preparedness plans that were activated Wednesday.

“I also think that COVID-19 has also prepared us well for staffing shortages and how to cope,” she said.

Legeros said facilities would be asking staff to volunteer for double shifts or spend the night at their workplaces, along with providing taxi slips for free rides and looking for volunteer drivers.

Cerqueti said the Simkin Centre made the decision before the blizzard hit that management would be available around the clock until the storm ends.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Cerqueti (left) and Lisa Back with the extra mattresses brought in for staff sleeping over.

She said the facility, thanks to the pandemic, is able to easily accommodate staff sleeping there between shifts.

“We actually ordered 15 or 20 extra mattresses thinking COVID would force staff to sleep over and a few slept on them (Tuesday) night and more (Wednesday). Myself, our director of care, and the manager of food services all stayed, not knowing what was going to happen — we weren’t even sure if the highways were going to be closed or not — so we decided to play it safe.”

Cerqueti said the 200-bed facility is currently also facing yet another outbreak of COVID-19, with two units affected.

“In total, we’ve had 26 cases in this wave… and, of the 26, 14 of them are active,” she said.

“It’s hard for our staff, but they are very dedicated. They want to do what they have to do. We will get through this — we always do.”

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason
Reporter

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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