WINNIPEG -- Manitoba has released its pandemic plan, created in the spring, to deal with capacity challenges in hospitals and intensive care units during COVID-19.

The plan includes the ability to triple the number of critical care beds and moving the least sick, non-COVID-19 patients out of the hospital and into places like hotels or other public buildings that can serve as overflow sites.

The plan has three phases and is currently only in the first phase which involves expanding the existing footprint of medicine and critical care units. More medicine beds are being added by reconfiguring surgical beds and redeploying health care workers, freed up through the postponement of surgeries. ICU capacity in this phase is being expanded mainly through added spaces nearby or mostly adjacent.

Manitoba currently has a baseline of 72 critical care beds but officials could add an additional 173 beds, if needed, and are still working on plans to create more space.

The plans highlight an ability to create more than 1,000 additional medicine beds.

If needed, phase two would involve repurposing existing hospital spaces and bringing in team-based models of care.

Phase three would be the most complex phase and it would involve moving lower acuity hospital patients – the least sick non-COVID-19 patients – to non-traditional hospital spaces, or, in an extreme situation potentially even out of the hospital to overflow sites. The overflow sites might be in hotels or other public spaces. There are plans for an additional 700 overflow beds, 300 of which are still on the health care campus, the remaining 400 would be at four sites within Winnipeg and Brandon.

There are no exact triggers for these plans to be implemented – the space would be added as needed.

The planning relies on people following public health measures. The health care system alone could not keep up without the measures.

One critical care nurse typically cares for one patient during normal times. Under team-based models of care, critical care nurses could look after more than one patient with support from other health care providers. Similarly, plans are in the works to redeploy specialty and family physicians to help deal with any surge in patients in medicine and critical care.

Manitoba is warehousing supplies and equipment to keep pace with the pandemic.

The province has 215 ventilators with 71 additional ventilators still to be delivered, 800 additional medicine beds, and 150 additional critical care beds.

The province’s plan shows it has a 90-day reserve of personal protective equipment – beyond what’s already available in the health care facilities – on hand in every category with the exception of small N95 masks, where there is a 53-day reserve. In all other categories, there are also supplies beyond the 90-day supply.