Doctor makes desperate call for help after ‘chaotic’ weekend in Manitoba ER

A desperate call for help is being made by a doctor from Manitoba’s second-largest emergency department.

It was a chaotic weekend inside St. Boniface’s emergency department, according to emergency physician Dr. Kristjan Thompson.

He tweeted on Monday pleading for some meaningful change.

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The department is pushed beyond capacity and patients are waiting many hours to see a doctor, including one patient who was having a heart attack on Sunday, Thompson says.

“It’s devastating when I come into work to see all the stretchers in a packed hallway, folks that are waiting in pain, who are suffering,” he said.

The patient waited 10 hours before being seen and other patients had been waiting for nearly a week waiting for a bed to open up.

“Sunday was the first day in my career where the fleeting thought of quitting crossed my mind,” Thompson said.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority agreed that patient flow challenges are causing long wait times, in a statement on Tuesday.

“These challenges, while significant over the weekend, did not impact the overall ability of the provincial critical care program to maintain capacity,” said a WHRA spokesperson.

“There was, however, a delay in moving one individual at Grace Hospital on Sunday from its emergency department to ICU due to staffing challenges and the high acuity of patients already in the unit.”

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“The patient’s care was not impacted, although it did cause lower-acuity patients to wait longer for care in emergency,” they added.

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Physicians are concerned hospitals will be overwhelmed this winter, according to Doctors Manitoba.

The swamped system is taking a toll on health-care staff, with a record high of 50 per cent of doctors experiencing extreme levels of burnout, according to the organization.

Additionally, 67 per cent have been morally distressed, as they feel they are unable to provide the level of care they’d like to.

“It’s a hard thing and a devastating thing to feel when you stare back at your patient’s eyes, almost feeling like you failed them — it hurts your soul,” said Thompson.

The province continues to address a monstrous surgical and diagnostic backlog that Doctors Manitoba has called attention to numerous times.

Read more: Doctors Manitoba says province’s surgery backlog at 128K

However, the Manitoba Health Coalition is calling on premier Heather Stefanson now to create an advisory council to address the staffing crisis.

The problem started when former premier Brain Pallister made cuts to emergency rooms, critical care capacity and outpatient service prior to the pandemic, according to Thomas Linner, Coalition Provincial Director.

These cuts weakened the ability of health care to respond to the pandemic, he says.

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“That’s why Manitoba had some of the worst results, the second highest death rate in the country.”

Other provinces are having similar struggles coming out of the pandemic, but Linner says things are different in Manitoba.

“What I think is unique here in Manitoba is that we have a government that seems absolutely dedicated to ignoring the health-care staffing crisis,” he said.

The advisory council would give the premier direct feedback from frontline health-care workers.

“We have to be talking to and speaking with those people who are still in the public health care system, who are working day in and day out in our hospitals, in our emergency rooms, in our ICU, throughout our personal care homes, and even in our home-based services,” Linner said.

The idea of the health council came from Stefanson’s announcement last week to create an economic advisory council that could further unfunded tax cuts in the province, according to Linner.

“We don’t think that those unfunded tax cuts are where we need to go. We think we need investment in the public health care system and to listen to frontline health care workers,” he said.

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