COVID-19 Update – December 2

Situation Update

Since our last update on Monday, 559 new cases of COVID-19 have been identified including 277 today. This brings the total case count in Manitoba to 17,384.

The five-day test positivity rate is 13.2%, down slightly from 13.4% on Monday. In Winnipeg, the test positivity rate is 14.5%, up from 13.7%.

There are currently 8,970 active cases, a decrease from 9,260 on Monday. Active cases had been increasing for some time. There are 351 COVID-19 patients in hospital, up from 342, with 51 in ICU. 

Thirty more COVID-related deaths have been reported since Monday, including a record 16 announced yesterday. So far, 342 Manitobans have died from COVID-19.

You can learn more in today’s public health bulletin.

While Dr. Roussin recognized the “minor improvement” in the COVID surveillance, he reinforced the numbers are still too high to let up on the current restrictions. There is “too much strain on hospitals… and too much strain on our health care professionals,” he added. 

Shared Health reported that ICU capacity remains stretched, running at 147% above normal capacity. There were 106 patients in ICU this morning, including 51 with COVID-19. Plans are in place to open 14 additional ICU beds as the next phase of expansion. Additional lower acuity space is also on stand-by to open for non-COVID patients with more stable medical issues. There are now 48 personal care homes with COVID-19 outbreaks.

Isolation Support

Earlier today, you likely received a President’s Letter from Dr. Cory Baillie about a new COVID-19 isolation and illness support benefit for physicians. 

We know the lack of such a benefit has been a particular source of distress for physicians. You are putting yourself at risk every day you care for patients, and you’ve done so without a safety net. At least 27 physicians have been infected with COVID-19 in Manitoba, and well over 100 have had to isolate due to symptoms or exposure risks since this pandemic started.

This new support will cover missed working days starting September 28, 2020 due to COVID-19 symptoms, diagnosis or a work-related exposure. Physicians will receive $1,000 per day for up to 10 days per isolation occurrence, with a 20-day maximum over the course of the pandemic. If you conduct virtual visits during isolation, you will receive $500 per day. This compensation is intended to support you in maintaining your practice, including overhead costs, during your isolation or illness. 

The application process is being developed right now, and we will advise all members without delay when you can apply. Doctors Manitoba will be administering this support benefit, though the eligibility criteria has been set by Manitoba Health.  

Coming to an agreement for this new support was not easy. There has been months of unrelenting pressure from Doctors Manitoba as we made the case with provincial officials, and our Board with political leaders. 

We have to acknowledge Dr. Paul Foster and Dr. Owen Mooney who both went public with their COVID-19 infections in recent weeks. They waived their personal privacy, not to advocate for isolation support for physicians, but rather to raise public awareness about the risks and the need to stop the spread of this virus. While not their intention, they put a face and a name on dozens of physicians who have either tested positive or have had to isolate as a precaution, and this helped make the need for this new support personal. Thank you to the scores of physicians who submitted their isolation or illness to Doctors Manitoba to help us put a number on just how widespread and important this issue is. 

You can read more about the new COVID-19 Isolation Support in today’s President’s Letter, and in the joint press release with the government of Manitoba

Join Tonight’s Town Hall

You can still register to attend tonight’s virtual town hall as part of our President’s Tour.

The session will begin at 7pm with Dr. Cory Baillie, President of Doctors Manitoba, who will offer a brief update on Doctors Manitoba’s new direction and our pandemic response. You will also hear more about the new isolation support.

More importantly, this is your chance to have your say, share your views, and ask us questions. Dr. Baillie will be joined by our CEO, Theresa Oswald, and other staff to assist in responding to your questions and concerns.

Register Now for tonight’s session, starting at 7pm.

January School Plan

The province announced today that following the holiday break, two weeks of remote learning will be mandated for students grades 7 to 12. The mandated remote learning will be in place from January 4 to 15.

For students in kindergarten to grade 6, in-class learning will resume on January 4 as planned, but remote learning will be an option as it is now.

The move builds on an analysis Dr. Brent Roussin shared with physicians at a Doctors Manitoba Town Hall. The two weeks of remote learning adds a layer of protection following the contacts that could occur during the holiday break. While school based spread of COVID-19 appears to be low, there is more evidence that older students have a higher incidence of contracting the virus and have a larger number of close contacts.

You can learn more about the mandated remote learning option in the provincial news release.

Physician Billing Audits

On December 1, 2020, the responsibility for physician remuneration audits was transferred from Manitoba Health to the Department of Finance. Any notifications respecting audits will now come from the Comptrollership and Compliance Unit (CCU) within the Office of the Provincial Comptroller. Although we have been told there will be no change in the way audits are conducted, we will take the opportunity to work with Department of Finance officials in an effort to clarify the audit process.

Because of the advocacy by Doctors Manitoba, and hundreds of physicians, you still have the right to an appeal, or dispute resolution process, during the audit process. The provincial government had introduced legislation that would have removed that right, letting government auditors have the final say, but this was changed and fairness in the process was restored.

As always, Doctors Manitoba will assist you in preparing for and responding to an audit. If you receive notice of an audit from the province, please contact Allison Crolly (acrolly@doctorsmanitoba.ca, 204-985-5856) or Andrew Swan (aswan@doctorsmanitoba.ca, 204-985-5860). 

Join Us December 10

Next Thursday, join us and hundreds of your colleagues for Physicians for Physicians, a special virtual pandemic event. 

We will spotlight the impact the pandemic is having on physicians while also honouring our annual award winners. And we have a special surprise planned as we unveil a new look for Doctors Manitoba. We’ve also added a gourmet food or appetizer option for those joining us from Winnipeg.

You can register now for Physicians for Physicians, and join us for an uplifting and supportive evening on December 10th.

StatsCan COVID Survey

You are invited by Statistics Canada to complete a survey about the impacts of COVID-19 on health care workers, with a particular focus on PPE and infection prevention. 

Doctors Manitoba has reviewed the survey process, and we recommend physicians take the time to complete this. Having an independent body like this shine a spotlight on the challenges and successes you’ve faced during the pandemic will be helpful as we continue to navigate this crisis.

Complete the survey online before December 13, 2020.