Critical incidents within the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority increased by 16 per cent through the COVID-19 pandemic, driven in part by a number of viral outbreaks and staff shortages at personal care homes.
The WRHA released its 2020-21 annual report Tuesday at its annual general meeting, which was held virtually.
According to the report, 79 critical incident reports were received between April 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021; 68 critical incidents were reported the year prior.
A critical incident is defined as an unintended event that occurs when health services are provided and results in a consequence that is serious and undesired, such as death, disability, injury or harm, or an unplanned admission to hospital or extended stay.
Critical incidents also include unintended events that do not result from the individual’s underlying health condition or the risk inherent in providing health services.
In the last year fiscal year, the majority of critical incidents occurred in an acute care setting, with 49 events recorded, a decrease of 10 from the year prior.
However, within WRHA region personal care homes, critical incidents increased significantly with 19 events reported; the year prior, just two critical incidents were reported at care homes.
The annual report noted 18 events were related to COVID-19, 23 were related to skin and tissue concerns, 17 occurred during the provision of care, eight were in the course of diagnosis and treatment, and six were related to surgeries or procedures.
Throughout the fall and winter, COVID-19 outbreaks were declared at most personal care homes in the WRHA, leading to critical staffing shortages as residents sick with the virus were isolated in their rooms.
One of the worst outbreaks was at the Maples, in which 157 residents were infected and 56 died, including eight in a 48-hour period.
The outbreak was declared a critical incident and the WRHA committed to reviewing the deaths of all personal care home residents. The results of critical incident reviews are confidential.
According to the annual report, the WRHA also received a higher number of complaints from the public — an increase of about six per cent — compared to the 2019-20 fiscal year, and nearly double the number of requests through its client relations portal.
The majority of the 2,524 complaints were related to COVID-19, followed by concerns about care and treatment and information. Most complaints were related to emergency and urgent care.
Overall, the WRHA reported an eight per cent decrease in visits to urgent care, for a total of 140,143 patients.
There were also 41,961 visits to the St. Boniface Hospital emergency room and 32,863 visits to Grace Hospital ER; of those patients, 22.6 and 17.42 per cent were admitted to St. Boniface and Grace, respectively, according to the report.
Compared to the year prior, main operating room and day surgery cases were also down by 11,220, or 34.4 per cent, as surgeries were postponed due to the pandemic and staff redeployed to other areas of the health-care system to respond to COVID-19.
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.