St. Boniface doc calls COVID-19 situation ‘the perfect storm you don’t want to be in’

A Winnipeg microbiologist at St. Boniface Hospital says he’s becoming increasingly worried about COVID-19 cases overwhelming the health-care system.

Dr. Phillippe Lagace-Wiens told 680 CJOB things are getting very serious, with no hope of a turnaround in sight.

“We’re getting to really dire straits — it’s almost like the perfect storm you don’t want to be in,” he said.

“There’s a number of issues that have been brewing for a long time, and it did kind of hit a culmination point here with a number of hospital outbreaks, a lot of community transmission and hospital staff getting the disease — it really puts an enormous strain on the health-care system.”

St. Boniface suspended in-person visits to most patients indefinitely on Sunday as it tries to get a series of outbreaks under control.

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Three separate wards at the hospital have gone into outbreak protocol since last Friday — with a total of 22 patients and nine staff coming down with the virus.

Read more: St. Boniface Hospital suspends visits amid 3 outbreaks

“This is a slow disease — it takes a couple of weeks before we see any kind of response to a change,” said Lagace-Wiens.

“I think people have lost track of what flattening the curve means. It doesn’t mean eradicating the disease, it means stopping these very sharp peaks that stress the health-care system.”

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Lagace-Wiens said basic safety techniques like handwashing and mask-wearing play their part but what really needs to happen is for everyone to reduce their close contacts.

“Sure, we can add more beds, we can add more ventilators. Those items can be bought, but having staff ready and able to provide that service is a whole other story,” he said.

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“When you’ve got staff getting COVID-19 and being put into self-isolation for 14 days, many of them are young and healthy, so they won’t have the problem of severe disease… but they will have the problem of not enough staff.”

Manitoba’s chief public health official, Dr. Brent Roussin, had similar advice about reducing contacts last week as the province’s number of coronavirus cases continued to rise.

Roussin said there is widespread community transmission and warned against people continuing to socialize outside their homes.

“We see infectious people at work, out in public at gatherings. This certainly can be avoided.”

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