WINKLER-Morden’s hospital has closed two of its three operating rooms, after more than a dozen health-care workers were identified as close contacts of people with COVID-19 infections.
Some 16 staff at Boundary Trails Health Centre, located at the connection of Highways 3 and 14, between the cities of Winkler and Morden, are self-isolating and off work — enough to reduce services considerably at the 94-bed facility, according to Dr. Denis Fortier, regional medical lead and chief medical officer for Southern Health.
"It’s a small enough hospital that 16 certainly has an impact on staffing supports," he said Thursday.
Cases have spiked in the area and Fortier said the "collateral damage" has been measurable.
"The caseload is high in that region, probably an underestimate of the actual caseload, and so we’re seeing a lot of traffic coming into the emergency department, and from there we’re seeing a lot of those people requiring admission to the hospital," he said.
"And it takes up beds. Those beds are normally filled up by people who don’t have COVID, but now we have to displace those people or not put people into those beds, because we actually need to free up beds for the much more acute and complex treatment of people with COVID."
Winkler has one of the highest COVID-19 case counts of any health district outside of Winnipeg, behind only Brandon.
"It’s like a secondary hit. We’re busier, and we’re potentially reducing our staffing because of the challenges related to close contact because there’s so many (COVID-19 cases) in the community," Fortier said.
Reductions mean there aren’t enough staff for all three operating rooms at Boundary Trails; two have been closed to redeploy workers into critical and emergency surgeries.
Winkler is also home to one of the lowest numbers of vaccinated adults in Manitoba, provincial data show.
Fortier said while pushing nurses to the front of the line to receive their second vaccine dose "makes perfect sense in theory," it wouldn’t have any effect on the situation currently at hand at Boundary Trails.
"Realistically, the next two weeks for us is when we’re going to be struggling the most… It’s a strategy, but it can’t be the only strategy," he said.
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.