By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Manitoba recorded another 12 COVID-19-related deaths and saw hospitalizations rise again Wednesday, as the province’s top doctor said the peak of the Omicron wave might be close at hand.
Health officials said the number of people in hospital with COVID-19 reached 631, an increase of 11 in one day to set yet another record. The number of people in intensive care, including non-COVID patients, fell by two to 100, which was still 28 above the province’s pre-pandemic normal capacity.
While the intensive care numbers have levelled off in recent days and the rate of growth of new hospital admissions has slowed, Manitoba’s chief public health officer said it was too soon to declare the current pandemic wave has peaked.
“Looking at other jurisdictions … it would be reasonable to expect that peak in the near future if we maintain the same trajectory as other regions,” Dr. Brent Roussin said.
“But right now, I can’t point to any specifics in our data that suggests that we have reached that.”
During the current wave, Manitoba has not had to ship intensive care patients to other provinces as it did last spring. But the high number of COVID-19 cases in hospital has diverted staff from other areas, leading to cancelled surgeries and diagnostic tests and adding to waiting lists that predated the pandemic.
The Progressive Conservative government announced Wednesday plans to reduce wait times that would see some people sent to private surgical centres or the United States.
The province is finalizing a deal to have a few hundred spinal surgeries done by Sanford Health in Fargo, N.D., later this year. Patients will not be forced to go, Health Minister Audrey Gordon said.
“Individuals will be … meeting with their specialists and their physicians that are currently providing care, and they will have the discussion about whether they choose to go out of the province to Sanford for care,” she said.
The Opposition New Democrats said patients don’t have much of a choice, given long waits in the province, and should not have to be separated from their families and home communities.
“What I’ve heard from many Manitobans is that their quality of life and their health has deteriorated so much waiting for the surgeries that they need that, yes, they will take any option potentially presented to them,” NDP health critic Uzoma Asagwara said.
The government is also in discussions with the Maples Surgical Centre in Winnipeg and other private facilities to perform gynecology surgeries, which have a backlog of 3,000 people.
Gordon said the province is also turning to a new screening tool, fecal immunochemical tests, for some colon cancer diagnostics. The tests do not need to be done in an operating room, thereby freeing up operating space for other procedures, she said.
The new measures come from a working group the province recently established to reduce backlogs that have grown during the COVID-19 pandemic.