Manitoba’s health minister announced Feb. 24 that health care staff who have been redeployed to help care for COVID-19 patients over the course of the pandemic will soon begin shifting back to their regular duties as the impact of the virus on health care operations declines.
Health Minister Audrey Gordon also said that, effective March 1, public sector workers in health care, education and child care would no longer have to provide proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test result in order to be eligible to work.
“Currently, more than 500 health care staff have been redeployed across the province, and we will begin to transition these individuals back to their former programs and care units,” Gordon said at a Thursday press conference.
The number of COVID-positive patients in hospital and intensive care has declined 40 per cent since the first day of February, said Dr. David Matear, health system co-lead for the province’s unified health sector incident command. And although restrictions on visitors to health care facilities began to loosen this weekend and they will soon not have to provide proof of vaccination, safeguards will remain in place.
“Our sites will continue to screen staff and visitors and will continue to require medical masks to be worn in all of our health care facilities,” Matear said.
The province will also keep the proof of vaccination QR codes and the app used to verify a person’s vaccination status available for businesses who choose to continue to require vaccination after it is no longer included in public health orders beginning March 1.
“We’ve heard from some venues, some businesses that they’re interested in keeping that proof of vaccine beyond that date,” said chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin.
As health care workers return to their pre-pandemic duties enabling surgeries, diagnostic procedures and other services affected by pandemic staffing changes to resume, the number of available intensive care beds will fall from the current maximum capacity of 124 patients, Matear said, but probably not back to where it was before COVID-19 arrived in the province.
“It’s very, very unlikely that we’ll go back to the original baseline of 72 beds,” he said. “We’re working on exactly what that number ought to look like.”
Stable patients continue to be transferred to health care facilities in other health regions to free up needed space, with seven having been moved in the past week, due to the availability of medicine beds in hospitals not always lining up with where the most demand is.