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COVID-19: Manitoba doctors concerned over Omicron growth in hospitals

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Manitoba is already seeing a record level of COVID-19 hospitalizations and hundreds more are expected in the coming weeks.

The Public Health Agency of Canada published its forecast for the Omicron wave and the forecast for nearly 200 new COVID-19 daily hospitalizations has worried Dr. Renate Singh that was heading towards what she called an evolving situation of mass casualties.

It is not that we did not know this, but it is shocking and sobering to see it on paper, said Dr. Renate Singh, an anesthesiologist working for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and Shared Health.

She said she reformulates the message given to Manitobans this week at provincial press conferences.

“I do not think this kind of picture became clear enough in explaining our current provincial situation,” she told CTV News on Friday.

Friday’s COVID-19 update shows there are 517 Manitobans in the hospital with the virus, an increase of 18 from the day before.

Singh said the PHAC forecast can be offset by discharges, but they can also be complicated by people who need hospital care for other reasons or people who have been discharged who need to return to hospital.

We are destined, I’m afraid, to be pickled enough to take care of all those who need us, Singh said.

Dr. Christian Thompson, president of Doctors Manitoba, said on Thursday part of the anxiety doctors have is not knowing what the plan is when the hospital system runs out of bed capacity.

“I’m afraid of scenarios where we are in a situation where there is a standard of care crisis,” he said.

Singh said he feels the same, as there have been recent days where ER Grace Hospital had twice the number of patients in the space than it was designed to hold. She said she and her colleagues talk every day about what can happen if there is no space for people.

Where will they go? Do we have a field hospital somewhere we have not been told yet? Will it regain any free space?

PHAC modeling also predicts that the Omicron wave will peak during January.

Dr. Singh said Manitobans should do everything in their power to prevent infection during this critical period because it extends the pandemic and impact on the healthcare system.

A Shared Health spokesman said Thursday that there were 1,444 medical beds across the health system with 157 vacant beds.

As a reminder, capacity can fluctuate daily based on patient demand and staffing levels, the spokesman said in a written statement. While these figures provide a sense of overall capacity, we note that medical beds across the system vary in terms of the patient acuity that can be managed and the level of care that can be provided. The ability to care for patients depends on the services available at that institution.

The spokesman added that 23 patients in Manitoba enrolled in the Virtual COVID-19 Patient Program, which allows COVID-19 patients to be cured at home instead of staying in the hospital. Twenty of the patients were being treated with oxygen at home, while the other three were no longer in need of oxygen but were being monitored to make sure they were still on the road to recovery.

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