August 12, 2020

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HSC preps dedicated COVID-19 isolation unit

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Manitoba's first COVID-19 patient to be hospitalized was in stable condition Thursday, as health officials ramped up preparations for an anticipated hike in critically ill cases.

As the province was adding screening sites for the novel coronavirus, it announced lab testing is nearing capacity and people who are not sick should not be tested. It also warned the Health Links phone service isn't for calls concerning "this, that and the other thing."

COVID-19 cases in Manitoba:

Provincial health officials say 16 of the cases are believed to be related to travel while one cases remains under investigation.

Provincial health officials say 16 of the cases are believed to be related to travel while one cases remains under investigation.

1: Winnipeg woman in her 40s 

2. Winnipeg man in his 30s

3. Winnipeg man in his 30s

4. Winnipeg man in 40s

5. Winnipeg man in his 70s

6. Interlake woman in 70s

7. Winnipeg woman in 50s

8. Winnipeg man in his 80s

9. Man in his 60s from southern Manitoba

10. Woman in 60s from southern Manitoba

11. Winnipeg woman in her 60s.

12. Winnipeg woman in her 50s.

13. Winnipeg woman in her 40s

14. Winnipeg man in his 30s

15. Winnipeg woman in her 50s

16. Winnipeg woman in her 50s

17. Winnipeg man in his 70s

Health Minister Cameron Friesen said a 30-bed COVID-19 isolation unit is being created at the Health Sciences Centre in central Winnipeg.

"I want to be clear: we do not need this capacity at the current time," Friesen said at a news conference. "We are planning ahead of time."

Health, Seniors and Active Living Minister Cameron Friesen: "We are planning ahead of time."

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Health, Seniors and Active Living Minister Cameron Friesen: "We are planning ahead of time."

Manitoba has reported 17 presumptive and confirmed cases of COVID-19 — with one patient with mild symptoms requiring hospitalization and none critically ill, as of Thursday.

A medicine unit is being moved to the former Women's Pavilion on Notre Dame Avenue from HSC to make way for the COVID-19 isolation unit, Friesen said.

The province has received 27 additional ventilators — required by those with serious respiratory illness associated with the the virus — bringing the total to 270; 16 more are on order, the health minister said. "Preparations should be made well in advance to make sure capacity is there should it be required."

Most Health Sciences Centre (HSC) doors have been locked and entry limited since Sunday.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Most Health Sciences Centre (HSC) doors have been locked and entry limited since Sunday.

Visitors are no longer allowed in Manitoba hospitals, with few exceptions, said Lanette Siragusa, Shared Health chief nursing officer.

Coronavirus screening sites are being added, including a drive-thru in Winnipeg at the MPI service centre (15 Barnes St., off Bison Drive) in the coming days.

That push has put a strain on lab testing in Manitoba, and across the country, chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said.

"We want to ensure tests are being utilized on individuals who need to be tested," Roussin said. "I cannot emphasize enough: people without symptoms do not need to be tested for COVID-19."

The Cadham Provincial Laboratory is now prioritizing samples from inpatients, very ill patients, health-care workers and long-term care facilities, he said.

Screening sites require referrals from the Health Links phone service, which has added an online assessment tool, tripled phone lines and quadrupled staff, but still has waits of more than an hour.

Chief nursing officer Lanette Siragusa.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Chief nursing officer Lanette Siragusa.

When asked Thursday about frustrated callers — who've complained about being on hold for two hours, getting busy signals or cut off and giving up — the health minister bristled.

"I'm hearing anecdotally in the community that they appreciate the ongoing updates from government and ongoing efforts to strengthen that service," Friesen said, noting Health Links is keeping wait times to two hours and saying it, too, has limited capacity "we must reserve for those who need it."

The provincial health phone service is not a "general information line for this, that and the other thing."

Seeing the number of COVID-19 cases rise in Canada and around the globe creates anxiety, Friesen said.

"I would ask Manitobans to use their judgment when they watch the numbers come in," he said. "They're rising because our system is working, because we are undertaking testing, because people are working hard in the background."

Meanwhile, agencies that offer day programs through Community Living disABILITY Services for adults with intellectual disabilities have been asked to limit the service to reduce the potential spread of the virus. Day services will be offered only to individuals who live with family members at risk of losing their jobs if the services were not provided and who cannot be safely supported in their residence during daytime hours.

Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer: "People without symptoms do not need to be tested for COVID-19."

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer: "People without symptoms do not need to be tested for COVID-19."

Also, an agreement has been reached with the province's health-care unions to quickly redeploy staff wherever they are needed, Friesen said. Rules changes will allow for doctor's appointments, prescriptions and prescription renewals to be done by telephone or video links.

The health minister thanked Manitobans for stepping up during the pandemic. He said 89 physicians have already volunteered to take on additional hours at clinics and hospitals, and 10 fourth-year nursing students are helping out at Health Links.

There were no new COVID-19 cases in Manitoba reported by early Thursday evening. Roussin said it appears the two presumptive cases identified Wednesday are both related to travel.

Public health investigators have not been able to directly link one of the 17 to either travel or to another confirmed case, Roussin said, adding work in tracing the case continues.

— with files from Larry Kusch

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Reporter

Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.

Read full biography

History

Updated on Thursday, March 19, 2020 at 7:20 PM CDT: Corrects typo

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