WINNIPEG -- A group of doctors is calling on Manitoba Public Health to close all non-essential businesses and implement a stay-at-home order in order to help ease the burden on the province’s health-care system.

“Everyone knows what kind of a catastrophe we’re facing currently,” said Dr. Daniel Roberts, an intensive care physician and one of the doctors calling for the changes.

“For the last three weeks Manitoba has been suffering the highest rate of daily new COVID infections in North America and that situation seems to be progressing without any abatement.”

The group of six doctors, who all have various specializations, said Manitoba hospitals are overwhelmed, which puts patients at risk of inadequate care.

“The longer that this situation lasts the greater the risk compounds,” Roberts said.

The physicians noted that many of COVID-19 patients say they are following the rules, but got sick at work, malls or schools, places they were either allowed or forced to go.

The doctors said the vaccines are a great way to fight COVID-19, but it won’t end the immediate crisis.

“Our patients are starting to show up with rising complications, because of lack of care,” said Dr. Christine Peschken, a rheumatologist and a doctor involved in the plea for changes.

“Now our clinics are barely functioning because of staff redeployments and with the whole health-care system focused on fighting COVD-19, we can’t get them these increasingly urgent procedures, the referrals, the investigations or the needed hospital-based treatments.”

To help with the rising case numbers and hospital admissions in Manitoba, the doctors want Public Health to close all non-essential businesses and issue a stay-at-home order. They also want the province to introduce mandatory paid sick leave.

The physicians are also calling on the public to do whatever they can to stay safe and to stay at home.

“My plea is that we have to get back to regular care as soon as possible,” said Dr. Charles Bernstein, a gastroenterologist and a doctor asking for changes to public health restrictions.

“There is an enormous amount of physical health burden and mental health burden out there that’s not being addressed because we’re not taking care of non-COVID-related problems.”

The doctors added that they don’t make these recommendations lightly, as they understand the economic and psychological impacts of the restrictions. However, they said their focus is on saving lives.

The other doctors taking part in this call for action are Dr. Pam Orr, infectious disease specialist, Dr. Jillian Horton, internist, and Dr. Eric Jacobsohn, intensivist/cardiac anesthesiologist.