Winnipeg hospital staff will be putting more emergency patients into hallways, cramped rooms and staff lounges, the Free Press has learned, as an internal memo warns that "the current bed crisis" has overflowed from emergency rooms to urgent-care clinics.
"Immediate measures have become necessary on an urgent basis, in order to relieve some of the pressure on the ERs and UCs," reads a notice to Victoria Hospital staff from their chief medical officer, Dr. Ken Cavers.
The notice, issued Friday, says those changes are being implemented across the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.
Health officials recently directed ambulances to divert lower-severity emergency patients away from the three emergency rooms at Health Sciences Centre and St. Boniface and Grace hospitals toward the urgent-care wards at Seven Oaks, Concordia and Victoria hospitals.
"At all sites across the Region, this will mean pulling more patients out of the ERs and UCs onto the in-patient units, to wherever patient care space can be created — in some cases in non-traditional locations," Cavers wrote.
Victoria Hospital has enacted its over-capacity protocol, even though that policy is currently being redrafted, he said.
"You may find that you have admitted patients in such spaces — for example, a fifth bed in a four-bed room, hallway space, staff-lounge space. It should be noted that patients who are moved into these spaces are to be close to discharge (estimated within 24-48 hours), fairly independent and with relatively low care needs," reads the memo.
It states that overflow patients will be placed on the fourth and fifth floors. Victoria staff, who were not authorized to speak with media, said that is where geriatric rehabilitation occurs, and where patients who are frail but have less-severe disease are placed.
The staff had concerns about COVID-19 outbreaks and additional pressure on doctors and nurses doing their rounds.
"While no one will claim that this is ideal, I would ask that you try to help make this work as best possible under the circumstance, as attempts are made to try to find longer term and more sustainable solutions," Cavers’ memo stated.
Patients placed in alternative settings will be looked after, the WRHA said.
"The health system is committed to addressing the situation and ensuring a high level of care to all who need it," wrote spokesman Bobbi-Jo Stanley.
"These are spaces that are monitored by staff, equipped with all necessary equipment, and are locations where patients who are expected to be discharged within a short period of time are being cared for."
Staff are dedicated to using the resources they have to provide as best care they can, he said.
"These are temporary measures made necessary by the surge in patients. We will continue to communicate with patients and staff about these moves and our plans for managing this surge," Stanley wrote.
This week, Manitoba Health’s latest critical-incident report revealed that a patient died after being turned away from an emergency department that was closed, sometime between October and December 2020.
"The individual was brought to the next closest health-care facility; however, the person did not survive," reads the report.
Shared Health data reveals that 14 per cent of patients who entered Winnipeg emergency rooms and urgent-care clinics in March left without receiving treatment; the rate was 24.1 per cent at HSC.
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