'It's scary': Manitoba hospital near capacity as COVID-19 surges
WINNIPEG -- An influx of COVID-19 positive patients has Bethesda Regional Health Centre in Steinbach, Man. struggling to keep up with demands.
"Nurses at Bethesda Regional Health Centre in Steinbach are sounding the alarm over the dramatically increasing number of COVID-positive patients arriving at the hospital," Darlene Jackson, president of the MNU, in a press release.
Jackson claims the hospital is struggling with capacity, citing that nurses have to triage patients in their cars at times because of a lack of space in the Emergency Department.
The Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals (MAHCP) is making similar claims.
"The situation in Steinbach today is what we've all been fearing," said Bob Moroz, president of the MAHCP, in an emailed statement. "This is what the system looks like when it's overwhelmed, and it's scary."
Moroz said paramedics are frequently working more than their 12-hour shifts to treat and transport patients.
"We're hearing that the vast majority of those patients are COVID-positive or are displaying symptoms," Moroz said in the email. "The community spread is so prevalent that they're now assuming any call they respond to is COVID-positive."
With employees working overtime, the MNU is calling on the government for more staffing at the hospital.
"The hospital appears to be only staffing at or below baseline, despite the significant surge," said Jackson in the release. "Additional nursing and support staff are needed immediately."
The MNU said it is also received reports from nurses that some personal protective equipment isn't being restocked fast enough and that there are basic equipment shortages for things like commodes and infusion pumps.
The situation in Steinbach is "concerning" to Health Minister Cameron Friesen, who said he was briefed on the matter less than an hour before his Friday afternoon news conference.
"We know that in Steinbach, in that area of Southern Health-Santé Sud, that we have some of the highest transmission rates right now in the whole province," said Friesen. "Some significant challenges come with that level, including hospital capacity."
Friesen said plans are being made to address the impacts of an increase in patients and how to utilize the hospital's capacity to the fullest.
One of the strategies to maximize capacity is to transfer patients who aren't as sick to other hospitals, according to Lanette Siragusa, Shared Health's chief nursing officer.
"So if there are patients who are lower acuity, it wouldn't be unexpected that they transferred to a different hospital that that's part of their strategy that's part of their capacity planning," she said.
Siragusa said the province will continue to work with leadership in the health region to ensure staff is supported.
"But that there is a process and I believe they're following it, and there's going to be times like I've said, for the past week, the intensity of this is going to increase, and we're all starting to feel it," Siragusa said, "So, Bethesda will follow their process, they'll support their team, and they will manage this."
Whatever plans are made need be enacted upon fast, according to the MAHCP.
“Government and health officials need to do everything in their power to reign this in, and also make sure health care workers who are risking their safety to keep the system going are protected and supported," Moroz said.
A statement echoed by the MNU.
"Nurses and other health care staff at the facility urgently need additional support, said Jackson. "The Pallister government and Southern Health must act immediately to ensure all necessary resources are in place and to recruit additional staff so that patients get the care they need."
According to MNU, multiple units at Bethesda Regional Health Centre are experiencing outbreaks, and approximately seven nurses have tested positive for the virus.