A crush of requests for new and updated provincial health cards, and demand for COVID-19 immunization record changes, has left the office issuing the document struggling to keep up.

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A crush of requests for new and updated provincial health cards, and demand for COVID-19 immunization record changes, has left the office issuing the document struggling to keep up.

A Manitoba government spokesperson said the current processing time for a new health card is approximately eight weeks, while people needing to make changes to their cards are waiting about four weeks to receive a new document.

"The department is seeing higher-than-normal call volumes and applications from the public related to COVID-19, which slows down the ability to process the requests received in the office," the spokesperson said in a statement.

The Manitoba Health and Seniors Care Registration and Client Services department processes requests from the public by mail, fax, and email related to both new health cards, as well as for corrections to immunization records and questions on immunization cards.

There are currently more than 1,000 health card registration requests and 3,189 requests to update a health card open with the department, the spokesperson said.

Requests for COVID-19 immunization record changes are in excess of 10,000.

The office is staffed with 12 full-time-equivalent employees handling requests and taking phone calls, the government spokesperson said.

"This is due to an increase in demand due to the pandemic, an increase number of people moving to Manitoba, and the importance of updating information on the health cards due to the importance of obtaining an immunization card."

In pre-pandemic times, the typical turnaround for a health card was 10-15 days by mail, fax or email, and in-person service usually resulted in a card being issued the same day.

The spokesperson said people still waiting for a new health card should seek medical attention as needed and services will not be refused, though the health-care provider may ask for payment.

"However, this fee will be reimbursed if the service is insured by the clinic upon presentation of the health card, once it is processed," the province said.