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Manitoba Doctor Warns of Overwhelmed Hospitals, Calls for Government Help

October 25, 2022 5:21 PM | The Canadian Press

By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus Hospital

A COVID-19 unit at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mikaela MacKenzie, POOL)

WINNIPEG — Manitoba hospitals are full, patients are waiting days for beds and many workers are quitting after burning out, says the chair of the group that represents physicians in the province.

Dr. Kristjan Thompson said the situation has become so dire, he has thought about leaving his job in the emergency department of the St. Boniface Hospital for the first time.

“It’s a hard thing and a devastating thing to feel when you stare back at your patient’s eyes feeling almost like you’ve failed them,” Thompson said Tuesday.

“It’s almost like the frog in the boiling water, right? Things are just getting worse and worse, and you only realize that things are that bad when it’s too late.”

Manitoba’s hospitals have seen a surge in demand since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and provincial statistics show that the number of patients in intensive care has remained above pre-pandemic normal capacity.

Health-care workers falling sick with COVID-19 or other conditions have added to the challenge in capacity, officials have said.

Thompson is the past-president and current board chair of Doctors Manitoba, which represents 3,000 physicians. He is working with the group on a report on the challenges facing doctors.

He said many nurses have simply left for other areas of health care.

“They’re leaving the ER because of unreasonable working conditions, significant burnout and moral distress.”

Thompson said he recently saw someone with a bowel obstruction wait 18 hours for an in-patient bed and another wait 10 hours while having a heart attack.

The Opposition New Democrats tabled documents in the legislature Tuesday that showed a sharp rise in overtime being worked by employees in the Southern Health Region as it struggled to keep up with demand.

Manitoba Health Minister Audrey Gordon said the government is working to address the problem by increasing training spots and education for health-care workers. She announced $12.5 million for Red River College to give students in nursing and other areas of health care a facility in which they can simulate hospital work.

Gordon also said the province will issue a report in the next week or so on how to retain and better support nurses.

“We’ll be looking at incentives that bring our (private) agency nurses back to the public system, that bring our retired nurses back and bring (back) our nurses who may have resigned,” Gordon said.

The province is also working on ways to retain doctors, especially in rural areas, she added.

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