Manitoba cancels non-urgent cardiac surgeries as hospitals fill up

All non-emergent cardiac surgeries scheduled for this week have been temporarily cancelled in Manitoba. 

In an emailed statement late Friday, a spokesperson for Shared Health said the decision was made to ensure there’s enough intensive care unit capacity across the system heading into the weekend. 

It said there’s been ongoing patient flow issues and staffing challenges that were heightened by patient demands. 

A spokesperson said three procedures were cancelled on Friday.

The cancellations come as dozens of patients have been moved to other hospitals in Manitoba to make room in Winnipeg’s hospitals during the province’s fourth wave of COVID-19 cases.

Earlier Friday, Shared Health said 62 patients had been moved to facilities in other health regions, including 41 patients moved from Winnipeg. Twenty-one others have been transferred from the Interlake-Eastern health region.

As of Thursday, 98 people were in Manitoba’s ICUs.

Shared Health said emergency cardiac surgeries are not affected. Next week’s scheduled surgeries are being reviewed. 

Task force details coming: minister

On Friday, Manitoba’s health minister said a timeline to clear the province’s growing backlog of surgeries and diagnostic procedures is on the way.

Audrey Gordon said the province will also publicly report on that timeline’s progress and establish a task force to tackle the issue.

The government announced the creation of that task force weeks ago, but hasn’t given any further details about it.

It initially promised to reveal those details after the Nov. 23 throne speech, and then pushed the announcement back to happen by the end of this week.

Now, the reveal is planned for next Wednesday, Gordon said, adding that it was delayed because of a scheduling issue with surgeons on the task force.

The recommendations to create a timeline, report on its progress and establish a task force come from Doctors Manitoba.

The advocacy group estimates the number of surgeries and procedures delayed in the province is now at 136,000 and climbing.

Later Friday, NDP health critic Uzoma Asagwara criticized Gordon for pushing back the task force announcement so many times.

“Manitobans have a right to know when they’re going to be able to finally get access to life-saving, life-altering surgeries and diagnostic tests,” the Union Station MLA said.

“And now all she’s done is delay those anxieties, delay people’s pain, delay people’s concern for the duration of the weekend and well into next week.”

Meanwhile, Manitoba’s years-long nursing shortage has worsened as the pandemic drags on.

Vacancy rates for nursing positions now hover around 20 per cent in several of the province’s health regions.

One of the highest rates is in the Northern Health Region, which reported as vacancy rate of 25.2 per cent as of Nov. 1.

The Southern Health region’s rate was 21.2 per cent at the end of September, while the Winnipeg health region reported a vacancy rate of 17.3 per cent as of October.

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