Manitoba

Online screening tool for coronavirus up and running in Manitoba, chief nursing officer says

An online screening tool for COVID-19 can be used now, says Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer for Manitoba Shared Health.

New tools designed to help reduce load on Health Links phone line

Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer for Manitoba Shared Health, and Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer, speak Sunday at one of their daily COVID-19 briefings. (Radja Mahamba/CBC)

An online screening tool for COVID-19 can be used now, says Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer for Manitoba Shared Health.

The online tool, which has been running since Monday evening, is another option for people who have been calling Health Links, Siragusa said at a news conference Tuesday.

There have been 13,000 hits on the site so far, and Shared Health expects the tool to reduce wait times on the Health Links line, she said.

An interactive voice also has been added to the Health Links line that will screen callers before putting them in touch with a clinician.

"It's a multi-pronged solution," Siragusa said.

Health Links received nearly 2,000 calls on Monday and there was an average wait time of almost two hours, Siragusa said.

"Hopefully between the phone with Health Links, the interactive questions online and the other solutions … we can find the balance," she said.

Premier Brian Pallister said every province is experiencing similar demands and waiting issues.

"These are growing pains," said Health Minister Cameron Friesen, who also was at the news conference.

"We will monitor. We're moving very quickly, but we're on it."

More than 1,700 patients in Manitoba have been tested for COVID-19 in the last five days at testing sites throughout the province, Siragusa said.

Health Minister Cameron Friesen says that long waits on the Health Links phone line are 'growing pains.' (Trevor Brine/CBC)

The four sites in Winnipeg and one in Thompson saw 481 patients on Monday, she said.

Seven new cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba were announced late Tuesday afternoon, bringing the provincial total of presumptive and confirmed cases to 15. 

The province said each of the first eight cases identified were related to travel, and there is no evidence the virus is spreading within Manitoba. It is still investigating whether the seven new cases announced Tuesday are travel-related.

Testing sites at the Flin Flon Community Hall and Guy Hall in The Pas are opening Tuesday, and in the future will operate 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Lanette Siragusa says two more testing sites will open in Flin Flon and The Pas on Tuesday and one will open in Steinbach as early as Wednesday. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Shared Health expects more sites to open, including one in Steinbach, "which we hope will open as soon as tomorrow," Siragusa said.

People can call Health Links at 204-788-8200 or toll free at 1-888-315-9257.

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief public health officer, reiterated Tuesday that people without COVID-19 symptoms do not need to be tested.

In order to ensure the safety of people most vulnerable to COVID-19, surgeries may be postponed if surgeons believe a patient's procedure can be pushed back three months "without any significant effects on [the patient's] health," Siragusa said.

More surgeries could be postponed if a blood shortage continues, she added.

On Monday, the federal government announced that Canadians are cancelling appointments to donate blood because of COVID-19.

"The recent increase in cancellations is concerning, particularly in light of blood shortages," Roussin said Tuesday.

Donating blood in Canada continues to be safe and healthy people are encouraged to do so, Roussin said.

Roussin says it is safe to donate blood, and people should because there's a shortage. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

"The need for blood is constant. It does not go away in a pandemic," he said.

Urgent health procedures will continue as scheduled, and anyone whose procedure will be affected will be contacted, Siragusa said.

Group meal programs at personal care homes will be discontinued, and Shared Health is looking into virtual options for providing pulmonary and cardiac rehabilitation programs to people.

Home care workers will be given scripts to assess how safe it is to enter a home.

Public health officials continue to encourage social distancing, and on Tuesday, they urged the cancellation of gatherings of more than 50 people.

Good social distancing includes staying at least two metres from other people in public and keeping the time of contact to less than 10 minutes.

As of Tuesday, Canada reported a total of 466 cases of COVID-19, both confirmed and presumptive (which means only initial testing has been done).

Ontario reported its first COVID-19-related death on Tuesday: a man in his 70s at Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie, a city about 100 kilometres north of Toronto. 

The death in Ontario brings Canada's COVID-19 death toll to five; four COVID-19-related deaths have happened in B.C. 

Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency in his province Tuesday morning due to COVID-19.

About the Author

Nicholas Frew is an online reporter based in Winnipeg. Hailing from Newfoundland, Frew moved to Halifax to attend journalism school before moving to Winnipeg. Prior to joining CBC Manitoba, Frew interned at the Winnipeg Free Press. Story idea? Email at nick.frew@cbc.ca