COVID-19 Update-July 8

Situation Update

There have been no new cases of COVID-19 detected in Manitoba for eight straight days. The province remains at a cumulative total of 325 positive cases, with only six remaining active today and no one in hospital or ICU. There have been 67,618 tests performed to date. You can review the latest in today’s public health bulletin.

More jurisdictions are mandating masks in public. Earlier this week, Dr. Brent Roussin said mandatory mask use is not in place in Manitoba today because of our low case count and the concern that implementing this measure too early could lead to compliance fatigue later when they may be needed most. Masks are recommended today as an additional precaution when social distancing cannot be maintained. Dr. Roussin was clear that his team continues to follow the emerging evidence on the benefit of mask usage, and that their recommendations could change in Manitoba if our COVID situation deteriorates.

Home Care services in Winnipeg are starting to be restored this week for clients who had their services cancelled during the pandemic. Services will be restored in phases, focusing first on people who need daily or weekly help to ensure their health needs are met, such as help with medications, getting out of bed, wearing compression stockings or preparing meals. Nursing services are almost fully restored already. Rural regional health authorities are also focusing on restoring services as well.

Addressing the Surgery Backlog

At least 7,000 surgeries were cancelled or postponed during the first wave of the COVID-19 response. This included quality of life procedures like cataract and hip/knee replacement surgery, as well as life-saving cancer and cardiac surgeries.

Late last week, the provincial government issued a request for proposals to help with the backlog of surgery cases. Private and public facilities are invited submit proposals that focus on addressing the backlog while creating additional capacity in the system. The services must be able to start August 1 and may continue through to March 31 of next year. The province has identified a list of priority areas, though others will also be considered:

  • Pediatric dental surgeries;
  • Pediatric ear, nose and throat surgeries;
  • Minor orthopedic procedures;
  • Ophthalmology surgery;
  • Outpatient spine procedures; and
  • Outpatient urology surgeries.

Up to 2,500 surgeries could be added through this process.

Several weeks ago, our survey identified physicians’ top pandemic concern was the need for a robust surgical and diagnostic recovery plan. Doctors Manitoba has been advocating for such a plan (along with other supports physicians need during COVID). We believe that a comprehensive plan must not only fully address the backlog of cases, but also account for the decreased capacity that still exists due to the extra time and precautions needed for many procedures. Of course, any plan must also keep surgeons, staff and patients protected.

We are encouraged some additional surgical capacity is being added, though we note this will not fully address the backlog or the decreased capacity for many surgery slates with the current pandemic precautions in place.

If you have suggestions or feedback on what should be included in a provincial surgery and diagnostics recovery plan, please contact us.

Help Us Build a Better Website

We are redesigning our website to serve you better. Please tell us what you want to see in a new Doctors Manitoba site. Would you use a members-only area to log in and view sensitive information, apply for benefits, or renew your membership? Can you find the information you need? How can we make it easier for you?

We invite you to comment on what you would like to see in a new Doctors Manitoba website. We want to ensure you can easily find the information you need, interact with us in more convenient ways, and feel confident that your access is secure. We want our website to help support the whole physician.

Please complete our short questionnaire online before July 15 by clicking here.

Financial Webinar

Join Doctors Manitoba and MD Financial Management for a live webinar on July 14 covering a variety of financial-related, physician-focused topics to help strengthen your resilience from the impacts of the pandemic. The webinar will include the following topics:

  • Overview of federal and provincial pandemic response benefit programs (MNP LLP)
  • Financial market update (MD Financial)
  • Financial planning considerations (MD Financial)
  • Billing and advocacy update (Doctors Manitoba)

The webinar will be held on Tuesday, July 14 from 5:30 to 6:30 PM. Please register in advance to participate.

New Strategic Plan for Doctors Manitoba

In case you missed it, we draw your attention to a letter from our President, Dr. Cory Baillie, about a new way forward for Doctors Manitoba. After months of consulting members and hearing from hundreds and hundreds of physicians, Dr. Baillie revealed our new strategic plan on behalf of our Board of Directors, designed to focus the work of Doctors Manitoba on the current concerns and priorities of members.

The new strategic direction will ensure we focus on the whole physician, including not only financial well-being but also physical and mental health and other professional interests. In short, it will ensure that Doctors Manitoba has your back over the years ahead, by focusing on the tools and support you need to deliver exceptional care to your patients.

Take a couple of minutes to read Dr. Baillie’s letter and the new plan. He has also invited you to contact him with any ideas, suggestions or concerns you have out the new plan.

Economic Situation in Manitoba

Last week, the province released an economic and fiscal update which reflects the evolving pandemic response and recovery in Manitoba. A deficit of $2.9 billion is now projected, down significantly from the $5 billion deficit the government cited when they proposed cost-cutting measures such as 10%-30% funding cuts, mass layoffs, and unpaid days off across the public sector. The government also canceled their earlier plans to reduce the PST to 6% this July, and that move is still left in limbo.

While the forecasters project Manitoba’s economy will rebound quickly in the second half of 2020, it is still likely the economy will shrink by 5% overall this year and result in a $1.5 billion decrease in government revenues. The update also recognizes the increased spending across government, though it leaves out that there has been close to a $40 million decrease in medical remuneration that was caused by pandemic restrictions on the delivery of health services, public apprehension about visiting their doctor in-person, and delays on expanding virtual visits.

Physicians should take note of the tone of this update. While it includes significant spending on the health system response and economic supports, it appears the government remains focused on aggressively mitigating the financial impact of the pandemic response. This will not detract from Doctors Manitoba’s continued advocacy for the many COVID-related supports and tools physicians need, though it does reinforce how different the playing field is in Manitoba than in other provinces that have invested more in supporting physicians and patients during this unprecedented time.

The economic situation in Manitoba may be best captured by the sheer number of workers who have registered for the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit, or CERB. New federal data show that nearly 250,000 Manitobans have signed up for CERB, significantly higher than the 50,000 suggested by the Premier just a few weeks ago. Another way to look at this is that over a third of workers in Manitoba have applied for the benefit, intended to help continue a living wage for workers displaced by business closures. The Manitoba Chambers of Commerce reported that 31% of businesses were forced to close. You can read more in a recent Winnipeg Free Press article.

Manitobans’ Views on Reopening Plans

The province has released survey results detailing Manitobans’ views on reopening businesses and restarting school in the fall.

Manitobans’ views are mostly positive about the changes that were proposed and then implemented in the most recent Phase Three plan, though there are clear signs of continued caution:

  • 67% agree that public gatherings could be increased to a maximum of 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors
  • 61% agree that child care centres should expand to maximum capacity
  • 63% agree that occupancy limits should be lifted for all health professions
  • 62% agree that travel restrictions should be eased to allow travel from Saskatchewan and Northwestern Ontario
  • 47% agree that travelers from western Canada should be allowed to enter Manitoba without self-isolating while 48% disagreed
  • 59% agree with increasing occupancy in restaurants and bars and 60% agree with removing occupancy limits on retail businesses

The survey of parents found that 75% were comfortable with the possibility of their children returning to school in September.

Survey Request: Black Physicians of Canada

All physicians and physicians-in-training are invited by Black Physicians of Canada to complete a survey that will help them develop as an organization. The survey will also help to identify individuals interested in receiving more information and/or being a part of their initiative.

Black Physicians of Canada is a steadily evolving and growing inclusive, diverse and national non-profit organization focused on addressing the unique challenges and needs of Black physicians, physicians-in-training and patients, helping combat anti-Black racism, and advocating for improved representation and health outcomes for Black Canadian populations.

Please complete their survey online by July 15.