By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — A surge of children sick with respiratory illnesses is prompting the children’s hospital in Winnipeg to postpone some surgeries and shift some health-care workers around.
A large number of children are being admitted into intensive care with influenza A and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, officials said Wednesday. As a result, some staff who normally work in surgery and other units will be temporarily transferred to the intensive care unit.
That will reduce the number of pediatric surgeries that can be done each day.
“I want to clearly acknowledge for everyone that this is far from ideal,” Dr. Shawn Young, the chief operating officer at the Health Sciences Centre, said.
“I’m a dad. I get it. No one is happy that this is occurring in Manitoba, just as no one is happy this is occurring in other provinces.”
Surgeries for emergencies and urgent matters such as broken bones, cancer and acute appendicitis are not being postponed. Ear, nose and throat procedures and others that are less time-sensitive are among the surgeries being delayed.
Pediatric surgeries have been postponed in previous winters during flu season, but the amount this year is unusual, Young said. The surge started earlier than normal this year, before the official beginning of winter.
As of Wednesday morning, there were 21 kids in intensive care. The normal pre-pandemic baseline capacity was nine.
There are similar scenarios in other parts of the country. The SickKids hospital intensive care unit in Toronto has been operating above its normal capacity and has been under immense pressure for weeks.
The Winnipeg children’s hospital has taken additional steps to move more nurses into the intensive care unit.
“We have put out a call for nurses with pediatric critical care experience who may be working in other positions, to see if they can pick up shifts in the PICU (pediatric intensive care unit),” Young said.
“In the past 24 hours, we have also put out a call for nurses with pediatric critical care experience who may be working in our casual workforce, or across the health system with this experience, and who may be able to offer help.”
The surgery postponements are expected to continue until sometime in January, Young said.