Second unit for COVID-positive mental-health patients to open this week in Selkirk

Manitoba is opening a 10-bed unit for COVID-positive mental-health patients in Selkirk because an existing unit at Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre is filling up.

As early as this week, Selkirk Mental Health Centre will begin accepting COVID-19 patients who require mental-health services, Manitoba Shared Health said in a statement.

An eight-bed COVID unit at Health Sciences Centre is filling up because of widespread community transmission of the disease, the provincial health organization said.

“As of last week, occupancy in that unit had increased to five of the eight available beds,” Shared Health said in a statement.

Selkirk will accept COVID-positive patients who are medically stable, co-operative and younger than 50. Patients with more complex medical needs — because of COVID-19, addictions or mental-health conditions — will continue to be treated at HSC.

“We are carefully monitoring the occupancy of mental health beds across the system and plans are in place to increase capacity incrementally as patient needs increase,” Shared Health said in the statement.

An existing eight-bed mental-health COVID-19 unit at Health Sciences Centre is filling up. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

The Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union criticized the plan and urged Shared Health to reconsider it.

“Why would you deliberately introduce COVID-19 to a facility which is currently COVID-19 free? This seems reckless for the patients, the staff, and the community,” MGEU president Michelle Gawronsky said in a statement.

“This plan seems even more ill-conceived when you consider that SMHC is equipped and staffed for psychiatric care, not the care and treatment of patients ill with this serious virus.”

Gawronsky also said Shared Health has not shared details of its plan with workers at Selkirk Mental Health Centre.

In a memo, Selkirk Mental Health Centre advised employees to proceed “with business as usual” because COVID-19 protocols have not changed.  

‘We are, and have always been, equipped to house COVID positive patients,” the memo says.

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