The number of intensive care unit beds in Winnipeg hospitals has declined steadily during Premier Brian Pallister's time in office, NDP Leader Wab Kinew says, citing documents obtained through freedom of information legislation.
In January 2017, eight months after the Progressive Conservatives were sworn into office, there were 73 ICU beds in Winnipeg's six hospitals, Kinew told reporters Wednesday.
A day earlier, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority admitted it could only staff 58 such beds, although it has funding for 63 system-wide.
ICUs provide care to patients with severe or life-threatening illnesses and injuries who need constant care and close supervision. Kinew said the Tories have closed emergency rooms and ICUs but have not added sufficient resources elsewhere to make up for the loss.
"This Conservative government has created a mess in our health-care system that is going to take a long time to repair," he said.
According to the information obtained by the NDP, there were 69 ICU beds at five city hospitals in January 2018, and 67 beds at five hospitals in January 2019.
In July 2019, there were 63 ICU beds in four hospitals, including 33 at Health Sciences Centre, 13 at St. Boniface, 10 at Grace, and seven at Seven Oaks General.
In a statement Wednesday, the WRHA noted it now also has 12 "high observation unit" beds at HSC and 10 "intermediate care unit" beds at St. Boniface Hospital.
"Significant planning was undertaken throughout (the) consolidation (of hospital services) to develop the current bed map," said Krista Williams, WRHA chief health operations officer. "We identified through planning that 63 adult critical care beds was an appropriate level to support the needs of our patient population... (along with the other complementary beds)."
Of the 58 current ICU beds, 34 are at HSC, 14 at St. B, and 10 at Grace Hospital. HSC will get five more ICU beds once staffing issues are resolved.
City hospitals are currently seeing a spike in arrivals at emergency departments and urgent care centres due in part to a flu outbreak and increased cases of respiratory illness.
Vickie Kaminski, WRHA chief executive officer, said Tuesday the city's critical care units are full and "operating at overflow in a lot of circumstances."
She said the WRHA would like to staff an additional five ICU beds but can't do so right now because of a shortage of specially trained nurses and other medical personnel, such as respiratory therapists.
If ICUs are filled to capacity, additional patients may have to be cared for in other specialized areas, such as in a post-anesthetic care unit, the WRHA has said. That could affect hospital surgical capacity.
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.