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Feds sending Red Cross nurses to bolster Manitoba’s critical care system

Canada's Emergency Preparedness Minister, Bill Blair, said on Twitter Saturday afternoon nurses from the Canadian Red Cross are being deployed to Manitoba until Jan. 17. Caryn Lieberman / Global News

The federal government has answered Manitoba’s call for additional nurses to support the beleaguered critical care system.

Canada’s Emergency Preparedness Minister, Bill Blair, said on Twitter Saturday afternoon that nurses from the Canadian Red Cross will be deployed to Manitoba until Jan. 17.

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A spokeswoman for Blair tells Global News the deployment of up to eight nurses “for ICU, ER, acute care and general nursing” will begin Monday, Dec. 20.

Annie Cullinan adds there is a possibility for an extension, depending on the circumstances when the deployment ends in mid-January.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Red Cross says it’s in the process of identifying nurses to “augment or relieve existing hospital staff in Manitoba.”

“The details of this support are still pending and the Red Cross will share information as it becomes available,” a statement reads.

On Monday the province announced it had asked the federal government to provide 15 to 30 ICU nurses for roughly six weeks.

That request came not long after a group of doctors released an open letter calling for help from the Canadian military for Manitoba’s hospitals.

The Manitoba Nurses Union says while eight nurses is welcomed news, it’s not enough,

“It’s really just a drop in a bucket for what we really need to address in this next wave,” said Darlene Jackson, President of the Manitoba Nurses Union.

“It’s really difficult to ask people to leave their home over Christmas and come to a different province so that’s one of the issues.”

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While neither the Red Cross or the province could share where the help would be distributed, Jackson says there’s one area that needs it the most.

“Southern Health does need some support because that is, I mean they have the lowest vaccination rate, their numbers are sky rocketing.”

On Sunday morning, Shared Health reported 93 total patients in Manitoba ICU’s. The normal pre-covid capacity is 72 beds.

“Just because you pull a ventilator up beside a bed in a room that’s going to be expanded to an ICU doesn’t really mean it’s an open bed in an ICU because if you don’t have the staff there and the skill and the expertise to man that bed, then it’s just a bed.”

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