Manitoba is set to ramp up surgeries after a month of postponements due to COVID-19.
The number of new coronavirus cases continues to be low enough with only one new case announced Friday that health officials say they can pivot some of the system’s resources back toward surgeries.
“We know there are postponed cases that cannot wait any longer,” said Lanette Siragusa, Shared Health’s chief nursing officer.
Some non-urgent surgeries were put on hold in March as part of the effort to ensure flexibility in the health-care system and availability of staff, beds, equipment and supplies required to respond to COVID-19, she said.
“We can’t slow surgeries down long-term. There’s only so long we can slow down for before we have to start building up again.”
Siragusa and Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin announced the one new COVID-19 case on Friday, bringing the province’s total to 263.
Of those, 196 have recovered and there are 61 active cases  down from 82 active cases on Thursday.
The number of deaths related to the illness in the province remains at six.
Over the next week, a number of facilities across the province will begin to increase their surgical activity.
This includes ramping up at Health Sciences Centre, the Pan Am Clinic, Concordia Hospital, Misericordia Health Centre, Grace Hospital, St. Boniface Hospital, Victoria General Hospital, Boundary Trails Health Centre, Selkirk Regional Health Centre and Brandon General Hospital.
Siragusa said surgeries will increase primarily for the following: 

  • Neurosurgery.
  • Vascular surgery.
  • Thoracic surgery.
  • Cataract surgery.
  • Orthopedic surgery.
  • Cancer surgery.

They will be scheduled for the most urgent cases first and all necessary precautions will be taken to protect patients and staff, she said, including point-of-care testing, use of appropriate personal protective equipment  and limiting the number of staff in the room to those who are essential for patient care.
Patients will be contacted directly about scheduling their surgery.
Details coming on new health orders
With a stretch of relatively low numbers of new cases in recent weeks the biggest single-day jump was 12 back on April 11  Roussin was asked if the province has seen its peak.
“It’s difficult to know when you are actually at a peak. Certainly some of the numbers for this first bit [show] evidence of a possible peak here, but we can’t confirm that at this point,” he said.
“It’s going to really depend on the actions of Manitobans because we can certainly see a climb in cases if we loosen up too quickly [in] our efforts.
“Our numbers have been looking like they’re in the right direction and we’re at a position right now where we can start to plan on gradually loosing some of these restrictions.”
The current public health orders and related restrictions such as the mandatory closure of non-essential businesses  are set to expire at the end of next week. Those will be extended but not likely to the same degree, Roussin said Friday.
“We’re working on that plan and so next week we’re going to be discussing more of the details of that plan,” he said, adding “there certainly will still be public health orders that will be in effect and extended.
“What they will look like is going to depend on what our numbers look like through next week. But we’re going to have a pretty inclusive restart program.”‘
At the same time, he warned of the risk of a second round of COVID-19 infections.
“We don’t know what a second wave may or may not look like, but it’s becoming clear that we’re going to need to deal with this virus in one way or another going forward,” Roussin said.
“As we move to loosen some of the restrictions, certain high-risk groups those over 65, those with underlying medical conditions or immunocompromised they’re going to still need to take many precautions because they’ll certainly be at risk. 
“Things like immunity we still don’t know a whole bunch about, so we’re gonna have to just stay vigilant because we do need to anticipate other waves of this virus.”
It was also announced Friday that Manitoba is diverting 100 vital sign monitors to Quebec and Ontario, which are the hardest-hit areas in the country for COVID-19.
Manitoba is part of a national effort to share important medical equipment and PPE, Siragusa said. The equipment was supposed to arrive in Manitoba next week, but will now be diverted to Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto and the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal.
Clinical leaders are confident Manitoba is able to provide the help to other provinces without risk to people here, Siragusa said.
Another shipment of equipment is expected to arrive in Manitoba in about a month.
Latest local news:
During Friday’s new conference, Siragusa was asked if Health Links is getting any inquiries about injecting disinfectant to kill the coronavirus, in the wake of remarks by U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday.
Trump had suggested scientists should investigate inserting cleaning agents into the body as a way to fight COVID-19.
Siragusa said she wasn’t aware of any inquiries here, but said she would look into it. Roussin jumped in, saying he wanted “to clearly give the message to not ingest or inject any disinfectants.”
“Follow only the advice of a health-care provider on these things,” he urged, adding once more for emphasis, “do not ingest or inject any disinfectants.”
That was the same message given by Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman at an earlier news conference in the day.
“I can’t believe I have to say this, but I’m going to just urge Winnipeggers to not consume or inject any disinfectants. That includes Windex, that includes Clorox, that includes Lysol and other household cleaning products,” he said.
“These are products not to be consumed or injected. We would urge people, please observe the safety warnings on the labels and follow the expertise from health officials, including those Manitoba Health.”
WATCH | Full news conference on COVID-19 | April 24, 2020:
Provincial officials give update on COVID-19 outbreak: Friday, April 24, 2020.42:10