In today’s message you will find:

COVID Surveillance Update

Since our update on Thursday March 17

  • Hospital occupancy continues to decrease: There are 359 people in hospitals with COVID-19, down from 395 on March 17.
  • Hospital admissions continue to decline: There was an average of 15.3 people admitted to hospital per day over the seven days, down 24% from a daily average of 20.1 the previous seven days. 
  • ICU occupancy steady: Of the hospitalizations reported above, 14 patients are in ICU, down from 17 on March 17. There are 88 total patients in ICUs as of yesterday, including those unrelated to COVID-19.
  • COVID-related ICU admissions have averaged 2.3 per day over the last seven days. This is up from 1.1 admissions per day during the previous seven-day period. 
  • 16 more people have died from COVID-19 since March 17 with the total now at 1,739.

The province is moving away from releasing daily data on COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and vaccinations. According to media reports, and yesterday’s public health bulletin, dashboards will no longer be updated after March 31. Information about COVID-19 will continue to be updated in Public Health’s weekly epidemiology reports.

Doctors Manitoba will continue to monitor COVID surveillance data and provide summaries to physicians, as it is available. 

The move to less frequent COVID updates is consistent with several other provinces, though it is making some anxious about being able to assess the risk of transmission, as Manitobans interact with each other without restrictions. Some are concerned about monitoring the pressure on the healthcare system. 

In other jurisdictions, they have seen an increase in cases, and subsequently hospitalizations, after easing restrictions. In Ontario, for example, the Science Table updated their projections last week. They found that:

  • Wastewater monitoring stopped declining and is now increasing slightly, a trend that has continued into a more significant increase over the last week. 
  • Test positivity has stopped declining, and in select populations (e.g. workplace screening, hospital screening) it has been stable or increasing.
  • Public mobility is increasing, suggesting the opportunity for spread is growing.
  • Booster dose uptake has plateaued.
  • Based on these trends, the Science Table projections suggest hospital and ICU admissions will likely increase over the next few weeks, but less so than in January 2022 and for a limited period if changes to public behaviour and mobility are only moderate. 

The extent of this increase, and of a person’s risk of contracting COVID-19, will depend on the number of close contacts (especially indoors without masking), vaccination status, and the spread of the more transmissible BA.2 subvariant.”

BA.2 is a sub-variant of Omicron. While it does not appear to cause more severe illness, it is more transmissible that the original Omicron variant and is displacing it in other jurisdictions. Sequencing here in Manitoba shows it may be increasing here, accounting for about 12% of cases based on data from mid-March. 

2022 Award Winners Unveiled — Save the Date!

We are excited to unveil an exceptional and diverse group of physicians as our 2022 Doctors Manitoba Award recipients! We encourage you to save the evening of Thursday, May 19 for our Annual Awards Gala, a chance to reconnect with your colleagues and celebrate this year’s award winners. Tickets will be available soon.

The physicians we are recognizing this year with our awards have one thing in common — their devotion to improving the health of Manitobans,” said Dr. Kristjan Thompson, President of Doctors Manitoba.​“Some of these extraordinary physicians played a key role in leading our province through the pandemic, and some found a way to advance other essential medical priorities despite the disruptions caused by COVID-19.” 

The Doctors Manitoba awards are the highest honour bestowed upon physicians in the province. Award recipients are nominated by their physician peers and selected after a thorough evaluation by the Awards Committee. 

We are proud of the exceptional group of physicians being honoured this year,” said Dr. Michael Boroditsky, Chair of the Doctors Manitoba Awards Committee.​“Through this difficult pandemic, it has been physicians like these that inspire excellence in the medical profession. We are truly fortunate to have them here in Manitoba.” 

This year’s honourees include the following group of courageous and committed physicians:

  • Dr. Joss Reimer receives the Dr. Jack Armstrong Humanitarian Award. She has become the most trusted and reliable source of COVID vaccine information through her calm, honest and reassuring updates to Manitobans. She has continuously reviewed emerging evidence and sought collaborative advice to ensure vaccines were given first to those most-at-risk, while also leading to an impressive level of vaccine uptake across the province. Her selfless leadership to inform and protect Manitobans during the pandemic is the very definition of medical humanitarianism.
  • Dr. Marcia Anderson is our 2022 Physician of the Year. She played a key role in Manitoba’s pandemic response. By leveraging data showing the disproportionate impact COVID-19 was having on diverse Black, Indigenous or Racialized communities, she was able to influence provincial policy to approve earlier access to vaccinations and targeted outreach initiatives to encourage vaccine uptake. These efforts led to a major public health success story, by reducing the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on diverse BIPOC communities in the subsequent wave of the pandemic. 
  • Dr. Brian Postl receives our Distinguished Service Award recognizing his career as a pediatrician, researcher and health system leader. As the first CEO of the WRHA, a founding member of the Winnipeg Poverty Reduction Council and most recently Dean of the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, his clinical experience in Winnipeg and in Northern remote communities has guided his efforts to champion health equity. His work has led to many improvements, such as new admissions criteria for medical school to ensure future physicians more accurately reflect the Manitoban population they will serve.
  • Dr. Benson Yip receives a Medal of Excellence for his trailblazing work in the colorectal surgery community, as a surgeon, leader and educator. He founded the University of Manitoba’s first clinical colorectal fellowship program, which has garnered national recognition. He is as well known for his eagerness to support medical learners as he is for his deep level of personal engagement with his patients. Through his many contributions, Dr. Yip has made an incredible mark in Manitoba’s surgical community.
  • Dr. Barry Lavallee receives a Medal of Excellence for his work as a clinician, educator, researcher, administrator, advocate and mentor. Driven by Indigenous patients and their stories, his work has centred around the self determination of Indigenous communities. We are excited about his current work with Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin, an initiative to transform health and wellness services so that they are reflective of the needs and priorities of First Nations people in Manitoba’s north.
  • Dr. Trina Mathison receives a Medal of Excellence for her dedicated rural medical practice, serving patients in Western Manitoba. As a rural physician, she has a broad scope of practice including cancer care, inpatient care, emergency medicine and surgical assistance, as well as offering care for the elderly and palliative care. She is often described as a team player by colleagues in Dauphin and she is well-loved by her patients.
  • Dr. Jai Shankar receives a Medal of Excellence for his innovative work to transform neurovascular care in Manitoba, most notably driving significant improvements in acute stroke care. As an interventional radiologist, his work has optimized diagnostic imaging for stroke patients while introducing new neuro-interventional devices to improve patient care. He has played a key role in creating the province’s first dedicated stroke unit, set to open later this year. 
  • Dr. Dorothy Yu is our Resident of the Year. She is a natural leader who exceeds expectations through her community service, patient advocacy, academic achievement, or her clinical work as the Chief Resident of Psychiatry. She led initiatives to reduce wait times for psychiatric consultation, collaborated on national research projects and helped to increase her Department’s success in attracting talented medical students from across Canada. Through the pandemic, she has made the support and health of her resident colleagues a focus for her term. 

You can read more about each of the award recipients here.

Diagnostic & Surgery Backlog Reaches New High

Earlier this week, we released our monthly updated estimate on the diagnostic and surgical backlog that has accumulated during the pandemic. It’s no surprise that the backlog has grown again, reaching a new high of nearly 168,000 cases. This is a significant increase of more than 6,300 from last month’s estimate, reflecting the continued disruptive impact of the Omicron wave on hospitals in Manitoba. 

Our latest estimates reflect the continued disruptions to surgery and diagnostic testing that occurred during the Omicron wave,” explained Dr. Kristjan Thompson, President of Doctors Manitoba.​“Physicians are encouraged by recent updates suggesting surgical volumes are returning to normal in many hospitals, though pre-pandemic volumes alone won’t help to clear the massive backlog. New capacity must be added to help those Manitobans who are still left waiting in pain and uncertainty.”

The total estimated pandemic backlog is now 167,887 cases, an increase of 6,302 from last month. This includes:

  • 54,820 surgeries (as of January 2022), up 2,493 over the last month’s estimate.
  • 45,251 diagnostic imaging procedures (as of January 2022), up 2,762 cases over last month’s estimate.
  • 67,816 other diagnostic procedures (as of February 2022), including allergy tests, endoscopies, mammograms, sleep disorder studies, and lung function tests, an increase of 1,047 cases over last month’s estimate. 

The Surgical and Diagnostic Backlog Dashboard can be accessed at Doc​tors​Man​i​to​ba​.ca/​b​a​cklog.

A new feature has been added this month documenting the impact the backlog is having on patients across Manitoba, based on extensive news media reports. 

These aren’t just numbers, they’re people. They’re our neighbours, our friends, our family, and our loved ones. The harrowing stories of Manitobans left waiting help us to understand the true impact this enormous backlog is having on patients and their families,” added Dr. Thompson.

Backlog Estimates Set to be Reviewed

For nearly a year, Doctors Manitoba has estimated the backlog that has accumulated during the pandemic by calculating the reduced volume of procedures delivered since the pandemic began in March 2020, compared to pre-pandemic volumes. Over the next several weeks, Doctors Manitoba will be working on a more comprehensive analysis with the aim of offering a more refined estimate of the work required to clear the backlog. 

After two long years of repeated disruptions to surgeries and diagnostic procedures, it’s important to gauge how much capacity is needed to clear the backlog and ensure that Manitobans get the care they need,” explained Dr. Thompson.​“While we are confident our estimates have captured the total surgeries and tests missed during the pandemic, a proportion of these missed procedures may no longer be required by the patients who would have, and who should have, received them.”

There could be several reasons that procedures not completed earlier in the pandemic may no longer be required:

  • Some tests are used for regular monitoring, so a test missed in the first year of the pandemic may have been caught during the second year. 
  • Some patients no longer need a test or procedure, perhaps because their condition either improved or deteriorated, because they moved away, or because they died while waiting. 
  • Alternative and sometimes less ideal tests or treatments were used instead.

Doctors Manitoba will consult with specialty physicians who provide the care included in the backlog estimates to inform the analysis.

→ Are we over-estimating or under-estimating the backlog in your clinical area? Let us know at covid19@​doctorsmanitoba.​ca.

Support for Addressing the Surgical Backlog

An update is expected next week from Manitoba’s Diagnostic and Surgical Renewal Task Force. Doctors Manitoba will be monitoring and will provide a summary to members. 

Meanwhile, the federal government is investing $2 billion into tackling pandemic surgical backlogs. Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos announced the investment today, noting that the country’s universal health care system is at risk after unprecedented pressures from the pandemic. The funding will be distributed to the provinces in addition to a $4 billion top up provided a year ago. 

Webinar on Physician Insurance Options

As physicians, you know that without your input, many patients might be missing proactive ways to improve their health outcomes. The insurance team at Doctors Manitoba, and the team at MD Financial, want to ensure you have all the information you need to make an informed decision about your insurance needs.
Insurance helps to manage risks in our personal and professional lives, protecting us and those we care for against life’s unexpected events, such as disability or premature death. It’s also a unique asset class that enables the ability to protect, grow, and distribute wealth in unique ways. However, the total range of available insurance strategies is often complex or unclear. 

As such, investors may not be taking full advantage of everything that insurance can offer. In this presentation, MD Financial and Doctors Manitoba will be highlighting the key areas of ambiguity around insurance, how to overcome common insurance misconceptions, and the most strategic and cost-effective tactics to implement to ensure you’re protecting not only you and your family, but also your wealth.
Join us:

Patients at the Centre

Manitoba Physician Dr. Harvey Chochinov published an editorial recently on The Platinum Rule: A New Standard for Person-Centered Care. Dr. Chochinov talks about how many of us have been guided by the Golden Rule for so long, treating others as we would want to be treated in similar circumstances. But when patients’ lived experiences and outlooks deviate substantively from our own, we stop being a reliable barometer for their needs, values and goals. It can lead to distorted compassion. That’s where the Platinum Rule comes in, having us consider doing unto patients as they would want done unto themselves. This means knowing who patients are as persons, hence guiding treatment decisions and shaping a tone of care based on compassion and respect.

This view on patient-centeredness is echoed in a recent editorial by Dr. Kedar Mate, the CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. He describes his initial skepticism — and eventual conversion — to the concept of asking patients What matters to you?” in addition to What is the matter?” He talks about how asking a simple question like this helps to humanize the care experience, builds trust with patients, and offers a therapeutic benefit unto itself. He also notes how important asking this question is to delivering more equitable care too. 

News from the Legislature

One of our roles at Doctors Manitoba is to stay up to date with the decisions of the provincial government, to monitor how they may impact physicians and medical learners in Manitoba.

The following recent updates are of note, from the provincial legislature:

  • The government has appointed a new board of directors for Shared Health, led by Brenna Shearer who was previously CEO of Pharmacists Manitoba. Until now, Shared Health had been governed by a caretaker” board composed of senior Manitoba Health officials. You can view the announcement and see the full list of new board members here.
  • The provincial budget will be delivered on Tuesday, April 12. The government’s announcement on the budget date suggests investing in health care will be a priority. Doctors Manitoba continues to advocate for the priorities of physicians including through new health spending, and we thank those who responded to our budget priorities survey a few weeks ago. 
  • A by-election was held on Tuesday to elect a new MLA in Fort Whyte, a space vacated following the resignation of Brian Pallister last year. PC Candidate Obby Khan eked out a narrow victory, defeating Liberal candidate Willard Reaves by just 197 votes. Khan becomes the first Muslim MLA in Manitoba’s history.

Report Highlights Barriers to Healthcare for people with Intellectual Disabilities

Community Living Manitoba, an advocacy organization dedicated to the full inclusion of persons with intellectual disabilities, conducted a study that looked specifically at people’s experience of the health care system. While there were reports of positive experiences, there was also information that we found shocking. For example, we found that in 45% of cases, persons with intellectual disabilities and autism do not receive appropriate preventative care and that their healthcare costs are about 4 times as high as that of other citizens. There appear to be systemic barriers such as lack of training and time restrictions that contribute to these concerns. They release a report that they hope will initiate opportunities for improving these experiences both for persons with intellectual disabilities and autism, and the healthcare professionals who support them. You can view the report here.

ICYMI — Recent Updates

Here’s some of the most popular and most important recent updates, in case you missed them:

  • On March 11, Canadian Women Physicians Day we showed you how far we’ve come, how far we still have to go and what we are doing to address gender inequities in medicine. We also announced a retroactive change to the Physician Retention Benefit and Maternal/​Parental Leave. Read more.
  • See our recent President’s Letter about how the 1% increase in physician remuneration for 2022/23 is being allocated.
  • Our Retention Benefit is being extended to members during maternal/​parental leave, and this will be applied retroactively. Learn more.
  • Be sure to claim your COVID vaccine expenses, with funding available to help with the costs related to patient outreach and scheduled clinics. Learn more here.

Upcoming Events

Bookmark our Events Calendar to be sure you don’t miss any events or learning opportunities that interest you. Some notable upcoming events include: