12 ICU nurses among federal supports headed to Manitoba as COVID-19 batters hospitals

A dozen out-of-province critical care nurses are coming to Manitoba this week as part of a federal government response to help the province manage a crush of COVID-19 patients that continue to strain hospitals.

Critical care nurses will allow Manitoba to open at least 3 more ICU beds, chief nursing officer says

Manitoba is expected to receive federal support in the form of dozens of staff to help manage the third wave in the province. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

A dozen out-of-province critical care nurses are coming to Manitoba this week as part of a federal government response to help the province manage a crush of COVID-19 patients that continue to strain hospitals.

The additional 12 nurses will allow Manitoba to open and staff at least three more intensive care unit beds, said Lanette Siragusa, Manitoba Shared Health chief nursing officer, during a Tuesday morning technical briefing.

The news comes days after Premier Brian Pallister asked Primer Minister Justin Trudeau for dozens of support staff to help as COVID-19 hospitalizations stretch the hospital system thin amid the third wave of the pandemic in Manitoba.

The surge has forced Manitoba to send some COVID-19 patients in ICU to Ontario hospitals in recent days.

As of Tuesday, 18 Manitoba COVID-19 patients had been moved to various Ontario hospitals, provincial officials said.

Ontario has agreed to provide at least 20 hospital beds for Manitoba patients, said Siragusa, and talks are also underway with Saskatchewan and North Dakota.

The Canadian Armed Forces can supply transport teams that could transfer up to two patients to out-of-province hospitals each day, she said.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and MP Jim Carr (Winnipeg South Centre) said federal government supports announced over the weekend, including from the Canadian Red Cross, are on the way.

"My province is going through a very tough time," Carr said. 

"There are an awful lot of people that have become sick. The stresses and strains on our health-care system are to the limit and sometimes beyond, and that's where the focus of our energy will be."

The Canadian Armed Forces will send teams to help with vaccine rollout in 23 First Nation communities, Carr said. 

Manitoba is also expecting one to two epidemiologists and three lab technologists from Public Health and Health Canada to assist with increased testing capacity, Manitoba officials said.

Trudeau spoke with Pallister and Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman on Friday about the situation in Manitoba. Carr thanked Bowman for being a "leader" and acknowledged Pallister for his "co-operation."

WATCH | At least 12 out-of-province ICU nurses on way to Manitoba:

Premier says at least 12 out-of-province ICU nurses will be in Manitoba this week

5 months ago
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said Tuesday the province was prepared for a third wave, but did not foresee how large the spike in cases would be. Pallister said the province didn't seek federal help a month ago because it was offering help at the time to other provinces struggling with COVID-19. 1:35

On Friday, Pallister asked for as many as 50 critical care nurses, 20 respiratory therapists and up to 50 contact tracers from Statistics Canada.

Manitoba's intensive care units had 140 patients of all kinds over the weekend, nearly double the pre-pandemic ICU capacity, health officials said. As of Monday, there were 126 in ICUs — the second wave peak was 129.

"Our health-care system right now is at the brink," Manitoba Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said on Tuesday. "There's no doubt that we can't sustain this level of transmission."

Those ICU figures don't include 18 critical care patients the province sent to various Ontario hospitals over the past week as ICU space in Manitoba maxed out.

Local surgery unit nurses are being redeployed to help expand ICU capacity to 146, Manitoba officials said Tuesday.

In the first half of last month, Manitoba's daily case counts grew exponentially. Manitoba subsequently rolled out a series of gradual closures that failed to stem the spread of COVID-19 and the jump in hospitalizations.

Six doctors on Tuesday called for Manitoba to close all non-essential businesses and issue a stay-at-home order. Some exceptions apply, but currently no public or private gatherings, indoors or out, are permitted.

Pallister touted Manitoba's public health orders as among the most strict in Canada during a Tuesday news conference.

He suggested Manitoba's spiking cases and hospitalizations have more to do with people failing to comply with public health orders than a lack of restrictions.

"There's an element of personal responsibility here and it needs to be talked about and it needs to be confronted," Pallister said. "You're either a part of the solution or you're a part of the problem."

WATCH | Premier has little sympathy for rule-breakers, those who refuse testing while symptomatic, avoid vaccination:

Premier has little sympathy for rule-breakers, those who refuse to get vaccinated or tested while symptomatic

5 months ago
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister suggested on Tuesday that not enough of the people ending up in hospital have been getting tested for COVID-19 when symptoms arise, or get vaccinated as soon as they can. 1:06

He said 129 of the 296 COVID-19 patients in hospital late last week wound up at hospital without previously having had a COVID-19 test, underscoring the need for people to get tested when symptoms start.

Pallister urged Manitobans to get vaccinated, citing the roughly 70 per cent of COVID-19 hospitals patients who haven't yet been immunized.

All Manitobans 12 and up are eligible for vaccination and can book appointments on the province's website or by calling 1-844-626-8222. Second dose appointments are now open to select groups as well as Indigenous populations.


Bryce Hoye


Bryce Hoye is an award-winning journalist and science writer with a background in wildlife biology and interests in courts, climate, health and more. He recently finished up a stint as a producer for CBC's Quirks & Quarks. He is the Prairie rep for OutCBC. Story idea? Email


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