Manitoba nurses union says COVID-19 fourth wave hitting peak in Manitoba

The union representing Manitoba nurses says the province is likely just now seeing the peak of COVID-19‘s fourth wave, just as officials are warning of another surge in cases.

Manitoba Nurses Union president Darlene Jackson says the province needs to focus on retaining nursing staff before the highly-contagious Omicron variant adds to a workload she says is already becoming unmanageable for hospital staff.

Read more: Can I get a COVID-19 vaccine yet in Manitoba? How to book it and where to go

“What I’m hearing from nurses is the ICUs are full (and) they are working flat out trying to keep up,” Jackson told Global News Winnipeg Morning Monday.

“We’re seeing it through the entire system, a backup. We’re seeing COVID patients moved from area to area to unit to unit and it’s beginning to look a lot like wave four is beginning to peak.”

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Manitoba reported 807 cases and six more deaths over the last three days Monday, including 333 infections identified Sunday — the highest single-day number since June.

There were 137 hospitalizations linked with COVID-19 reported Monday and 27 patients in ICUs as a result of the virus.

Read more: Manitoba reports 809 new COVID-19 cases, 6 deaths in last 3 days

Last week, Manitoba’s chief public health officer announced new restrictions on gatherings and capacity amid worries the Omicron variant will put further strain on the health-care system.

Manitoba has so far reported 17 cases of Omicron, but provinces like Ontario and Quebec are seeing case loads quickly skyrocket as the variant takes hold.

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Manitoba has already said a shortage of nursing staff in ICUs has forced officials to cancel elective surgeries and transfer patients to other facilities to free up bed space.

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Officials also haven’t ruled out the possibility of shipping patients out of province for care, something they had to do when ICUs were overrun by COVID-19 cases in the spring.

Jackson says Manitoba is facing a “critical nursing shortage.”

Read more: More elective surgeries to be cancelled in Manitoba to make way for cancer, emergency cases

“We have more than 2,200 nursing position vacancies in the province right now,” she said.

“I think nurses are just to the point where they’re holding this system together, but I’m not sure how many more waves we’re going to get through with the number of nurses we have.”

Jackson says the province’s recently announced plans to open up nearly 400 new nurse training spots at provincial post-secondary schools is a good start, but won’t help in the short-term.

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She says the province needs to do whatever it can to keep the nurses who are working right now, working.

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“Those are going to help in the future, but you cannot educate a nurse overnight,” she said of the new training spots.

“We can’t afford to lose any more nurses out of the system at this point.”

Read more: Manitoba asks feds to send ICU nurses amid worsening COVID-19 health care crisis

Meanwhile, Doctors Manitoba estimates the backlog of tests and surgeries postponed by COVID-19 has grown to more than 152,000 cases.

Last week Manitoba asked the Ottawa to send up to 30 ICU nurses to help with the shortage in hospital workers.

Over the weekend the federal government announced eight Canadian Red Cross nurses will be arriving in Manitoba starting Monday.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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