COVID-19 Update – March 17

Situation Update

Today the government announced that daycares will close after Friday, March 20, just like schools. Small home-based day cares can stay open. Child care options are being arranged for front line health staff.

As a physician, if you cannot arrange your own child care, you can call the province for help at 204-945-0776 or 1-888-213-4754.

Government is taking other containment measures, including:

  • Directing that all gatherings of 50+ people be canceled. This would also apply to bars and restaurants limiting capacity to under 50 people.
  • Closing casinos starting tonight
  • Suspending all visits to long term care facilities, except for compassionate reasons.
  • Encouraging retailers to set up shopping hours specifically for those most vulnerable

Seven new cases in Manitoba were announced late on Tuesday, bringing the total count to 15. The Chief Provincial Public Health Officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, reiterated that there is no evidence of cases in schools or day cares, and no evidence yet of any community spread.

Dr. Roussin also reiterated advice to cancel international travel, especially health care professionals. Doctors Manitoba also recommends this, especially given the daily changes to travel restrictions. Yesterday, the federal government announced changes to travel, including limiting international arrivals to four major cities and closing the border starting tomorrow to everyone but Canadian citizens, permanent residents and Americans.

Blood donations are down. All Manitobans are encouraged to donate by calling 1-888-2-DONATE (1-888-236-6283).

You can read today’s provincial bulletin here.

Screening and Testing Changes:

Shared Health has launched a new online self-screening tool for the public. The screening tool asks questions about symptoms, travel history and contact with confirmed or suspected cases. It then advises if the individual should go straight to an ER, call health links, self-monitor or self-isolate.

It is now recommended to start with the online screening tool before contacting Health Links, which has faced a surge in calls with long 1-2 hour wait times. Health Links has also introduced an interactive voice response (IVR) option to help with screening and reduce wait times.

Patients may then be directed to a screening clinic. Screening clinics are not walk-in, and patients should first use the online screening tool and Health Links before attending.

Today, two new screening clinics opened in The Pas and Flin Flon with one more expected tomorrow in Steinbach. There are already four screening clinics in Winnipeg and one in Thompson.

Physicians can also refer patients directly to a screening and testing clinic, provided the physician has first screened the patient.

Please refer to Shared Health’s screening guide for primary care, with information about screening clinic locations and hours.

Please note that asymptomatic patients should NOT be sent for COVID-19 testing

Virtual Care Reminder

Our President, Dr. Fourie Smith, provided an update to the media yesterday about introducing virtual patient visits. Clinics can start offering virtual visits now, and are encouraged to consider the following:

  • Consider how virtual care will work for your clinic: Will you only offer phone appointments or also video visits. Review technology options for video conferencing, as outlined in the provincial guidance on virtual care.
  • Review your scheduled patient visits for opportunities to convert in-patient visits to virtual.
  • Establish a process for patients calling in for new appointments to offer virtual visits when appropriate.
  • Review information about new tariffs as well as CPSM standards for virtual care (pages 86-87).

Virtual care is one strategy to slow the spread of COVID-19, protecting patients who don’t need to come to a clinic and protecting physicians and staff by decreasing traffic in your clinic.

Elective Surgeries Postponed

Surgeons have been directed to postpone elective procedures that can be delayed for 90 days or more, with a focus on those particularly susceptible to COVID-19. This includes the patients older than 70, those with underlying health conditions or who are immune compromised. Patients are being contacted directly to confirm that their surgery is postponed.

If needed, please review the Shared Health memo on elective surgery management.

Awards Gala Postponed

Doctors Manitoba is postponing our annual Awards Gala. A new date will be confirmed as the pandemic passes. Our plans for our Annual General Meeting are being reviewed with more details to come.