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Manitoba doctors warn healthcare system straining under increasing COVID-19 numbers

Click to play video: 'Manitoba doctors warn healthcare system straining under increasing COVID-19 numbers' Manitoba doctors warn healthcare system straining under increasing COVID-19 numbers
ICU numbers are creeping up once again, and surgeries have already been cancelled. As Global's Brittany Greenslade reports, doctors say they need to know the plan on how the province is going to deal with the surging numbers – Dec 7, 2021

There’s a growing backlog of surgeries and more cancellations of key procedures as the COVID-19 pandemic wears on in Manitoba, says the group that represents physicians across the province.

“We are very close to being on the brink,” Dr. Kristjan Thompson, president of Doctors Manitoba, said Tuesday.

Read more: Non-emergency cardiac surgeries cancelled in Manitoba due to staffing challenges: Shared Health

“This pandemic has shown just how little flex there is in our health-care system.”

To deal with the rising number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units, the province has shifted resources from other areas. It has reduced the number of surgeries and diagnostic tests.

Click to play video: 'Manitoba couple flies to Mexico to avoid provincial surgery backlog' Manitoba couple flies to Mexico to avoid provincial surgery backlog
Manitoba couple flies to Mexico to avoid provincial surgery backlog – Nov 29, 2021

In recent days, it cancelled some non-urgent cardiac surgeries to ensure there were enough staff to cover intensive care beds.

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The backlog of tests and surgeries has grown each month, tracking by Doctors Manitoba indicates. The group’s latest data says the surgery backlog increased by more than 2,300 last month to top 56,000 for the first time.

Most diagnostic tests, including mammograms and ultrasounds, saw a bigger backlog as well, while the wait-list for MRIs decreased slightly.

Read more: Manitoba man’s triple-bypass surgery cancelled hours before taking place

Thompson said he fears the province is getting close to the dire situation it was in last spring when dozens of intensive care patients had to be flown to other provinces because of a lack of beds.

Even though the number of people in intensive care is lower than during the peak last spring, the situation is problematic now because nurses and other workers are leaving ICUs and emergency departments, he said.

“There’s a lot of people who are just becoming fed up, who have left to work in other sectors of health care, other different medical specialties,” Thompson said.

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Manitoba announces Selkirk hospital expansion, plan for surgical backlog expected next week – Dec 3, 2021

“I think people are leaving because they feel they can’t care for the patients the way that they ought to.”

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The office of Health Minister Audrey Gordon did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Gordon has promised she will introduce a new working group Wednesday to reduce the backlogs.

Read more: Manitoba reports first Omicron COVID-19 variant case

The Doctors Manitoba statistics came out the same day the province announced its first known COVID-19 case involving the Omicron variant.

The province said the person was experiencing mild symptoms and had travelled from one of the 10 African countries the federal government has placed restrictions on because of the variant.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

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To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, visit our coronavirus page.

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