Winnipeg patients moved to rural hospitals in COVID crunch

Letter warns high demand could result in transfers


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Dozens of patients in Winnipeg hospitals have been moved to rural facilities, as the province’s health-care system continues to battle COVID-19’s punishing third wave.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/06/2021 (531 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Dozens of patients in Winnipeg hospitals have been moved to rural facilities, as the province’s health-care system continues to battle COVID-19’s punishing third wave.

To date, 59 patients have been transferred from Winnipeg to a community hospital outside the city, a spokesman for Shared Health said Thursday.

“With the significant and sustained pressures placed on Manitoba hospitals… inter-regional transfer criteria were established to support the transfer of patients from facility to facility.”

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Shared Health says 59 patients in Winnipeg have been transferred to a community hospital outside the city as the province’s health-care system battles COVID-19’s third wave.

When a patient is admitted to a Winnipeg hospital, they are given a letter from Shared Health advising them patients could be transferred to another facility and, possibly, to another region when demand for beds is high.

The letter assures them that only those whose care needs can be safely supported in another facility will be transferred, and they’ll try not to send them too far away.

“Every effort will be made to ensure a smooth and safe transition,” the June letter states.

“Every effort is being made to ensure patients are transferred to the closest available facility” it says, but, in some cases, patients may need to be sent to another health region. They will not be charged for transportation.

Whenever a transfer is considered, ensuring that the care needs of the individual are able to be met safely and appropriately at the receiving facility is the top priority, the Shared Health spokesman said.

The regional transfer criteria include the expected date of discharge for the patient: it must be greater than 72 hours away at time of transport. It considers the ability of the patient’s essential-care partner to travel to the receiving facility and access to follow-up services.

Manitoba has had to send ICU patients with COVID-19 out of the province for weeks after surging case counts resulted in intensive care staff becoming overwhelmed. On Thursday, 11 patients were in intensive care in Ontario and one was in an Alberta ICU. The province reported no Manitoba ICU patients were sent out of province on Wednesday.

Moving patients within Manitoba has been done in the past during times of high patient demand, the spokesman for Shared Health said, without citing examples.

The transfers are done to use available beds in medicine and surgical wards and to free up space to allow surgeries.

On Thursday, Manitoba reported 200 COVID-19 hospitalizations, including 109 people with active COVID-19 and 91 people with COVID-19 who are no longer considered infectious. There were 52 COVID-19 patients in intensive care, including 28 with active cases and 24 who are no longer infectious but continue to require critical care.

The Progressive Conservative government created the circumstances that led to patients being shuffled around the province and out of the province during the pandemic, said NDP health critic Uzoma Asagwara.

“It’s a direct reflection of this government’s complacency and outright unwillingness to address the staffing crisis.”

The member for Union Station said Manitobans should be concerned the Pallister government is “normalizing the process” of shuffling patients around to cope with demand.

“Instead of addressing the staffing shortages, hiring more nurses, training more nurses and treating them with respect, they made a decision to do the exact opposite and it’s Manitobans who are paying the price for it,” said Asagwara.

Acting Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen was not available to comment on patients being shuffled from major hospitals to rural ones, a provincial government spokesman said Thursday, noting that “Shared Health is much better to explain these operational issues.”


Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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