Nurses at the hospital in Steinbach, Man., are having to triage some patients in their cars because they don’t have space in the emergency department, their union says.
There’s a “dramatically increasing number of COVID-positive patients” arriving at Bethesda Regional Health Centre, according to Manitoba Nurses Union president Darlene Jackson.
The hospital is struggling with capacity, the union says, with patients arriving on their own and by ambulance.
Multiple units are experiencing outbreaks and at least seven nurses in the hospital have already tested positive for COVID-19, the union says.
“There are also reports that some supplies and PPE are not being restocked in a timely manner, and that there are basic equipment shortages, including commodes and infusion pumps,” a release from the union reads.
Steinbach has become a COVID-19 hot spot, with some of the highest per capita case rates in Manitoba — the province with the highest per capita rate in all of Canada.
The hospital is also only staffed at or below baseline levels, despite the surge in patients, and additional nurses and support staff are needed immediately, the union says.
“Health officials do not appear to have an adequate plan to meet the dramatically increasing need, despite having months to prepare.”
‘Literally taking hours’
Paramedics serving the area say it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get patients into Bethesda’s ER, said Bob Moroz, president of the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals.
“Triaging the patients that they’re bringing into that facility is literally taking hours,” Moroz said Friday.
The long delays are piling on stress to a workforce that is already stretched thin, he said.
“Each time that that happens, that ambulance and that crew is now essentially out of commission [while] they’re waiting.”
Bethesda is a COVID-19 care centre for the area, Moroz said. As the volume of COVID-19 patients rises, Moroz said it’s also becoming increasingly difficult for paramedics to find facilities for non-COVID-19 patients.
Paramedics are spending their entire shifts — sometimes well over 12 hours, thanks to the high demand — in full personal protective equipment, he said, because community transmission in the area has become so widespread they must assume any patient could have COVID-19.
“Our members are all tired, they’re fatigued, they’re stressed beyond belief and they need help. They need that support,” he said.
“In the vast majority of cases, they’re just feeling that it’s not being provided.”
‘It’s not unusual’: Siragusa
Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer for Shared Health, said the hospital staff “certainly are busy.”
But “it’s not unusual for health-care workers to go out to the ambulance bay and do their triage and assess before bringing them in,” she said during a COVID-19 news conference Friday.
It’s not just that illness, but other medical issues as well that are making the ER busy, she said.
“Yes, they are busy, but that’s the flow. The flow should be happening. And I think they’re doing the best they can in a busy situation.”
Siragusa said some patients will be transferred out of Bethesda, which is part of the planning for a surge.
“If there are patients who are lower acuity, it wouldn’t be unexpected that they’re transferred to a different hospital. That’s part of their strategy,” she said.
“Like I said for the past week, the intensity of this is going to increase, and we’re all starting to feel it.”