Currently, pressure from COVID-19 cases is affecting the health care that all Manitobans can receive and public health officials are calling for full cooperation to get the new case numbers down.
Health needs are being triaged - elective procedures bumped. If every ICU bed becomes taken up with COVID patients, there will be nothing left for trauma, tragedies and emergencies.
Provincial lead for Shared Health Lanette Siragusa says a further surge of hospitalizations is still expected because there’s a week to two-week lag between new cases and those who require hospitalization.
Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin and Siragusa used newly released modelling of COVID-19 to show that the Red restrictions imposed two weeks ago pulled Manitoba from the brink of a crisis. However, the province is still in a bad position and the demand for ICU beds is expected to rise in the short term.
Data reveals that for every 48 cases, three are hospitalized and there is one death. Among COVID cases, Manitoba has a two per cent fatality rate and a five to six per cent hospitalization rate.
According to the modelling, based upon data from March to August, the worst-case scenario in December would be 800 to 1000 new cases per day in Manitoba.
Right now, Manitoba has one-half to one-third of those numbers in new cases per day. Case numbers have dropped within the past two weeks from a high of about 500 cases to Friday’s new case count of 320.
Here are key concerns:
The number of elderly who are losing their lives from COVID-19 is distressing. The burden of this comes at a time when families cannot visit their seniors in care homes before they are sick or when they are dying. And closure through a funeral service is not available.
Secondly, the province’s health care is being overwhelmed, both in hardware and software – beds and medical professionals. Manitoba has opened up 14 more ICU beds this week. About 50 per cent of acute bed space is now used for COVID patients, who, when they need ICU, tend to be weeks in acute beds. Nurses and doctors are tiring with an unprecedented demand upon them. Staff shortages, staff fatigue, staff illness are real.
Siragusa said that “staff are feeling guilt and grief. They need time off, rest and support.”
Thirdly, Manitobans who require emergency care from accidents of any kind, heart attacks, stroke, and other critical conditions also need beds. Emergency staff are coming under increasing pressure.
Other Manitobans who require elective surgeries, tests and procedures are being put off until a later date. People are living with declining health because of this. Dr. Roussin pointed out that elective medicine is still necessary medicine.
Syragusa said the province dodged a worse case scenario. In answer to media questions about whether the Red and the strict Public Health Orders recently imposed came soon enough, Roussin answered that while hindsight tells one thing, the decision makers expected the Orange restrictions to work better than they did.
He also pointed out, “Drastic measures can’t be sustained forever.”
Roussin was asked several times why, with numbers of positive cases rising in schools, the schools were still allowed to operate. He explained that cases within schools are appearing in conjunction with cases rising within the communities of those schools. He said there is not a concerning spread through transmission within schools.
Where the communities are relatively free of COVID cases, the schools also remain free of the virus, and that is borne out in the communities of Prairie Mountain Health region.
What will happen after Dec. 11, regarding the restrictions that we are now under? Roussin made no commitments to stronger measures or to lesser measures. We have to wait and see.