‘We are drowning’: Doctor begs Manitobans to obey health orders, take burden off hospitals

Manitoba’s health-care system and its professionals are drowning in the deluge of COVID-19 cases, says an anesthesiologist who is begging people to wear masks and stay home.

“We are in very big trouble folks. The system is breaking along with the backs of those who are trying desperately to hold it together,” Renate Singh posted in a message on Facebook on Sunday. 

“My heart is literally breaking for our community.”

Singh, who works at the Health Sciences Centre and Grace Hospital, posted images of a recovery room at Grace that is being converted into an intensive care unit because of the demand for beds.

“By next week this space will be filled with critical patients with COVID-19,” she wrote.

“When this space fills up, we will have few choices around where we can put COVID patients requiring isolation beds. As space runs out, it is quite plausible that my anesthesia colleagues and I will have to care for these souls in what once was our operating room suites.”

A contingency ICU space has been created in the recovery room at the Grace Hospital in Winnipeg. At the time of this photo, the equipment was being moved in. By next week, this space will be filled with critical patients, Renate Singh says. (Renate Singh/Facebook)

In an interview with CBC News, Singh said she was driven to post about the dire situation to combat the messaging from anti-maskers who believe hospitals aren’t full or that public health orders aren’t necessary.

“It is really so important for Manitobans to take this situation seriously, because we are drowning right now,” she said.

“Staff are working extremely hard and there’s only so many of them to take care of this insurgence in patients. If we don’t get the public’s help, if we cannot find a way to message … about why it is that we are so profoundly affected, then we are just going to continue to drown.

“We need the public’s help more than we need equipment in some ways.”

Singh is worried urgent surgeries might have to be cancelled, which has already been done with non-essential surgeries.

“The natural place to hold a critical patient is in the recovery room, and if the recovery room is exhausted, surgeries cannot continue. So that’s a big source of concern for me,” she said.

Staff who are not accustomed to being in the ICU are being redeployed into those units, which also worries Singh.

“Everybody has a certain level of anxiety in terms of what’s coming. The anxiety of not being able to provide a level of care that we’re accustomed to is something that’s real with everyone,” Singh said.

Manitoba broke its record for new COVID-19 cases in a day on Sunday, when the province announced 494 more people had tested positive for the virus.

As well, 10 more COVID-related deaths were reported; 15 were reported on Saturday.

The total number of deaths in the province due to the pandemic is now 162. Of those, 93 deaths have come in the past 15 days, since the start of November.

“I am asking you please … stay home. Don’t give this virus more hosts in which it will play and reproduce,” Singh wrote in her Facebook post.

“We the health-care workers are relying on you to fight alongside us by doing whatever you can to suppress the rate of viral transmission right now.

“I understand that everyone is being asked to sacrifice, but I’m literally begging you to think of us and what we will have to endure if we do not collectively kick this thing in the ass.”

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