Surge in illnesses prompts Winnipeg health authority to activate flu plan, ask staff to pick up shifts

An internal WRHA memo obtained by CBC News says there have been confirmed cases of influenza A, influenza B and respiratory syncytial virus at the same time, which is rare.

WRHA official says increase in respiratory illness, including flu, driving capacity problems

Since Boxing Day, Winnipeg hospitals have seen increased volumes of patients in emergency departments and urgent care centres, a WRHA official says. (Thawornnurak/Shutterstock)

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority says an increase in patients in emergency, urgent care and critical care departments has led it to activate overcapacity protocols and the regional flu plan in its hospitals.

In a statement, WRHA chief health operations officer and chief nursing officer Krista Williams said a surge in respiratory illnesses, including confirmed flu cases, has played a large role in overcapacity. 

"Since Boxing Day, Winnipeg's hospitals have seen increased volumes of patients in the emergency departments and Urgent Care Centres, increased ambulance arrivals, and more patients needing admission than usual," said Williams.

"We have also seen an increase in staff sickness which has also added further challenge."

The extra steps in place include close monitoring and daily capacity calls, using flex and overcapacity space and beds, offering additional shifts to staff and asking nurses with ICU experience if they will pick up shifts, Williams said.

In an internal WRHA memo sent to staff obtained by CBC News, Williams and outgoing WRHA president and CEO Réal Cloutier said there have been confirmed cases of influenza A, influenza B and respiratory syncytial virus at the same time.

"To have all three viruses surge at once is unusual. Most years, each virus starts and peaks at a different time," the memo read. "This is a challenging time but all hands are on deck and we are monitoring the situation and meeting every day to ensure we are doing what we can to provide safe care."

The memo said the WRHA and hospital leadership are including partners from unions, the province and EMS in incident command discussions.


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