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Surgeries delayed in Winnipeg as health system deals with respiratory illnesses

A surge in respiratory illnesses is prompting changes in Manitoba hospitals.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) told CTV News Winnipeg the high volume of patients is leading to blocked treatment spaces in the emergency departments and urgent care centres.

“It means that we’ve had to make a lot of changes within our systems to try and adapt to the demands on the health system,” said Dr. Joss Reimer, the chief medical officer for the Winnipeg Health Region.

Some of those changes to improve wait times include rescheduling elective orthopedic surgeries – which is happening at both Concordia and Grace hospitals – and some inpatient surgeries are being switched to day surgeries.

Nurses are also being asked to pick up shifts, Allied Health staff are being allowed to volunteer for overtime hours, and managers, educators and nurses in leadership roles are picking up shifts.

“These are short-term changes because they’re things where we’re responding to the extra demand of respiratory virus season,” Reimer said.

“This is something that we don’t want to see at all, and we plan to fix as soon as we possibly can. The sooner those numbers get better and the situation gets safer with staffing.”

Reimer noted there were 27 rescheduled surgeries Thursday at Grace Hospital, but to offset that, 26 day-surgeries were scheduled.

“So folks are getting care, but that doesn’t mean that we feel comfortable rescheduling people who’ve been waiting to get the procedures that require the inpatient care.”

The return to normal may happen soon, as Reimer said recent numbers for COVID and influenza have been coming down.

“This year, influenza seemed to be very strong and now the numbers are looking like (they’re) plateauing, maybe even coming down. So I’m certainly optimistic that this is going to be short-term and that we will very soon be able to move back into our longer-term planning.”

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