NW Ontario expecting, ready for more Manitoba COVID-19 patients

WINNIPEG — Manitoba COVID-19 patients are being cared for in Northwestern Ontario at Thunder Bay Health Sciences Centre, but there may soon be more.

“The number of medically stable COVID patients in ICU who have been moved to Thunder Bay for further care remains at three,” said a statement from Shared Health Thursday.

“We will continue to monitor the situation as it is fluid and subject to change quickly. Our clinical teams remain committed to ensure the best possible care of patients.”

Thunder Bay Health Sciences Centre President and CEO Rhonda Crocker Ellacott told CTV News the hospital is helping Manitoba with ICU capacity, and the team there is expecting more patients.

“We’ve been in conversations with Manitoba and are actually expecting another patient probably later today,” said Crocker Ellacott.

So far, the Thunder Bay hospital has taken in three patients she said, and there is room for Manitoba patients in the Northwestern Ontario region.

“We’ve talked about creating 20 beds to try and support Manitoba, so that’s the initial ask or the initial offering.”

She said the patients are being airlifted in and if needed they will be spread between a few other hospitals in NW Ontario to not overwhelm any one location.

“Health Sciences North may agree to receive a couple of patients or Sault Ste. Marie may agree to receive a couple of patients but it’ll be balanced across the full north,” she said.

Crocker Ellacott added that helping Manitoba was not in their pandemic plan, but the region is happy to help since Manitoba has, and still is, providing life and limb care for patients from Northwestern Ontario.

“This is what partners do to help other partners in need and so we’re really pleased to be able to provide this level of support and it’s really a good thing that we’re not seeing the surge at the same time.”

The plan to take patients from Manitoba is open-ended.

Shared Health told CTV News the medical transport teams, who provide transport by air and by land have been increasingly busy over the last few weeks due, in part, to efforts to free up space inside major hospitals in Manitoba which need capacity.

“ERS is also preparing in case medevac services are needed to assist in the evacuation of communities currently affected by wildfire,” a spokesperson wrote.

“The transport of patients out of province for critical care patients adds to that workload and additional air transport resources are being considered as an interim measure.”

As of Thursday, Shared Heath said there are a total of 125 patients in Manitoba intensive care units, 76 of which are COVID patients.

Out-of-province patients are not tracked in the daily ICU count. 

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