Doctors Manitoba calls on province to develop and implement triage protocols amid ICU strain

Doctor holding oxygen ambu bag over patient given oxygen to patient by intubation tube in ICU/Emergency room. File / Getty Images

Doctors Manitoba is once again calling for the province to develop and implement triage protocols as the third wave of COVID-19 continues to put significant strain on the health care system, particularly in critical care.

Triage protocols lay out guidelines for doctors and health-care providers who may need to make dire decisions when it comes to who gets treatment over another.

The group says such protocols would alleviate a lot of uncertainty facing both physicians and patients.

In a letter obtained by Global News, Doctors Manitoba cites another letter recently sent from the Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA) to the premier and health minister, which says critical care resources are likely to be stretched even further as the COVID-19 situation worsens.

“Manitoba is imminently facing the prospect of having insufficient ICU nurses and beds to manage the surge in patients with COVID-19, given the alarming rise of COVID-19 cases driven by new variants of concern,” the CMPA wrote in part.

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“Without a Triage Protocol, healthcare providers will not be able to take the necessary steps to minimize the number of people who die as a result of ICU overcapacity.”

Read more: Manitoba still has no hospital triage protocols as ICUs near critical levels

Triage protocols are needed not only to decide who gets ICU beds, according to Doctors Manitoba, but also which patients should be transferred out of province, and which are best suited for make-shift ICU spaces.

“In this time of uncertainty, doctors and other health care providers should be reassured that their good faith efforts to make life and death decisions during the COVID-19 crisis is supported by government through an established Triage Protocol,” the letter from CMPA continues.

The group says the legal authority and framework would be best implemented by way of emergency order.

Doctors Manitoba says both Alberta and Quebec have already done as much.

In an email, acting minister for Health and Seniors Care, Kelvin Goertzen, says the province is focused on ensuring everyone is able to get the medical treatment they need and is working to increase ICU capacity.

“As with any medical protocol, triage protocols are developed by professionals in the healthcare system, not elected officials,” Goertzen writes.

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“We will continue to work with, and take the advice of, our health system leaders during this difficult time.”

Doctors Manitoba wrote that it has offered its assistance over the weekend to support government in addressing the issue “including helping to bring decision-makers and critical care physicians together to review a draft protocol.”

A recent survey of physicians by Doctors Manitoba revealed a staggering 98 per cent were concerned hospitals aren’t ready for the third wave, while nine in ten said they were worried patients won’t get the care they need.

With files from Brittany Greenslade

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