COVID-19 Update-August 12

Situation Update

Over the last week, there have been 134 new COVID-19 cases reported. This included 35 cases on Sunday alone, the highest single day increase so far in Manitoba. This was followed by lower counts in the following days including 16 cases today. The running total of cases in Manitoba now stands at 578.

There are 202 active cases today. This is the highest active case count so far in Manitoba. However, there only five in hospital with three in ICU and the the five-day test positivity rate is 1.06%. You can view today’s public health bulletin for more details.

More than half (58%) of the cases over the last week have been in Prairie Mountain Health Region, with 25% in the Southern region and 16% in Winnipeg. Most of the Prairie Mountain cases are linked and located in Brandon, with many reportedly working at a meat processing facility.

There were 1,554 tests completed yesterday, bringing the overall total to 105,661 tests conducted so far in Manitoba.

Across Canada, there have been over 120,000 cases with over 9,000 deaths. South of the border, the United States has surpassed 5 million cases with nearly 165,000 coronavirus-related deaths. Brazil and India follow the US in case counts.

Globally, there are now over 20 million cases recorded and over 740,000 people have died.

Shared Health Discontinuing PPE Ordering for Doctors

The provincial government has notified us that “effective August 28, Shared Health will no longer supply orders of PPE to private fee for service medical clinics.” Their rationale is that “global PPE supply chains have stabilized” so physicians and clinics should go back to ordering through private suppliers. The notice offers some reassurance that the province may offer PPE supply again in the future if needed.

We are concerned about this change, particularly as we have seen an increase in calls to our office from physicians looking for help in securing needed PPE. We are continuing to advocate on a range of issues related to PPE and protecting physicians during the pandemic, including:

  • Advocating for the provincial government to ensure all physicians have access to the PPE their own provincial medical experts recommend;
  • Pressing for assistance to help with the increased overhead costs driven up by higher prices and more frequent use of PPE;
  • Ensuring physicians have access to timely COVID-19 testing with test results delivered promptly; and
  • Continuing to make the case for isolation and illness support.

In the meantime, Doctors Manitoba is also continuing to provide our own PPE support to physicians, by summarizing provincial PPE guidance and requirements, offering ordering advice and maintaining a small inventory of some PPE to serve as a supplier of last resort. Please visit our PPE resource page for more information.

Whether you work in hospital or in a community practice, we want to hear from you about your PPE experience. Are you able to access or order the recommended PPE? What help do you need? Please let us know by emailing PPEconcerns@doctorsmanitoba.ca, so we can think ahead to the types of support physicians will need this fall.

Making Masks Mandatory in Your Practice

We have received a number of questions recently about whether or not physicians can make masks mandatory in their office or practice. The short answer: yes.

While masks have been made mandatory in other jurisdictions with surging rates of COVID-19, this is not yet the case in Manitoba. The current advice from Dr. Brent Roussin is to wear a mask when one cannot physically distance from others. He has signaled a mask directive could come this fall, but it is not yet needed in Manitoba.

Despite this, many businesses have started requiring their customers to wear masks to enter. Everywhere from Old Navy and Walmart to the Winnipeg Art Gallery and Mountain Equipment Co-op. Many provide a disposable mask if customers do not have their own.

If you want to make masks mandatory in your office, we offer the following guidance:

  1. We have checked with CPSM and they have advised that physicians have the right to protect other patients, staff, and themselves by requiring patients to wear masks, as long as accommodations can be made for those very rare instances of physical or mental health exemptions that make mask-wearing a challenge for an individual.
  2. Have a clear and consistent policy and ensure all physicians and staff in your practice understand it.
  3. Communicate with patients. It is best to advise them of your mask policy in advance so they can plan ahead. We have also created a poster for you to print and post on at the entrance and in the waiting room.
  4. Provide masks to patients who do not have their own. This is becoming common practice at many businesses, and physicians have the added consideration of not denying care to those who need it.

Please download our “Masks Required” poster, and while you’re at it check out our “show your precautions” poster to ensure patients see all the steps you are taking in your clinic to keep everyone safe and protected.

Seasonal Flu Vaccine Plans

We are advising physicians to anticipate a higher demand for flu shots this fall. Last year was a record year for infuenza vaccinations, with 26% of Manitobans receiving the flu vaccine. With COVID-19, demand is expected to increase.

Public health officials have shared plans for the annual flu shot for this year. Starting August 17, and not before, physicians can start placing orders for the influenza and pneumococcal vaccines, which is expected to start arriving in late September. Ordering information and the order form are available online through Manitoba Health.

The province is also ordering more high-dose influenza vaccines and expanding the criteria to make more at-risk groups eligible. This is available for order, but only to providers who will offer on-site clinics to eligible facilities or specifically to at-risk groups, such as eligible home care clients, First Nations, remote/isolated communities or those living in northern Manitoba.

Manitoba health will maintain an interactive map to help Manitobans find out where to get immunized. We expect many pharmacies will promote themselves through this service. Physicians offering flu clinics will also be able to add their names to this map, with more information expected soon on how to do this.

Guidelines on setting up a flu clinic during the pandemic will be developed and shared soon.

You can learn more by visiting the Manitoba Health flu distribution site.

Manitoba Physician Receives National Award

Earlier this week, the Canadian Medical Association unveiled their annual award winners. We are delighted to congratulate Winnipeg physician Dr. Vanessa Poliquin, who has won the CMA Award for Young Leaders. She is receiving this honour for her exemplary dedication, commitment and leadership in clinical, educational and community service.

Dr. Poliquin, an OB-GYN working at HSC Women’s Hospital, has become a leading expert in reproductive infectious disease. Her interest in preventing and treating infections in pregnant women was sparked during her residency, when she discovered how little information there was to guide physicians in this area. After completing her medical degree at the University of Toronto, she completed her residency here in Manitoba where she continues to work today. Her unique area of expertise has become even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Poliquin!

Red Deer Tragedy

On Monday, a physician in Alberta was attacked and killed while working at his clinic in Red Deer. Dr. Walter Reynolds, originally from South Africa, worked as a family physician. He leaves behind a wife and two young daughters.

This horrific act has shaken physicians across the country, and Doctors Manitoba joins the Alberta Medical Association in sharing our sorrow and deepest sympathies to his colleagues, family and patients. An online fundraiser has been started by a physician colleague to support Dr. Reynold’s wife and two daughters. Physicians from across Alberta and the rest of Canada have already offered their support.

If this violent attack has triggered anxiety, fear or other issues for you, you are not alone. You can talk to a colleague about how you are feeling. You can review and update the safety protocols in your own practice. You can access Doctors Manitoba’s health and wellness services by calling the 24-Hour confidential Physician and Family Support line at 1-844-436-2762.