‘An impressive effort’: Hotels, agencies working to provide self-isolation spaces for Manitoba health workers

By | April 15, 2020

Manitoba Shared Health says it has been finding ways to increase the use and availability of COVID-19 isolation centres, which are meant to provide self-isolation spaces for front-line staff and patients who test positive for the illness — as well as close contacts — but don’t have other safe spaces available.

“It really has been an impressive effort of a bunch of people working together to make sure that this resource is available, and really a key part in reducing the spread of this virus in the province,” said Lanette Siragusa, Manitoba’s chief nursing officer, during Wednesday’s COVID-19 briefing.

The province has been looking to businesses such as hotels to provide such spaces for several weeks, especially since health-care workers started testing positive for the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

A Winnipeg hotel opened up as the first isolation centre less than two weeks ago, but several others have popped up since.

Shared Health has been taking a “multi-pronged approach,” working with various provincial departments, the federal government, hotels, shelters, First Nations communities and the Canadian Red Cross, Siragusa said.

Thirty hotels and inns throughout Manitoba have inquired about hosting isolation centres, she said, which is “great because we weren’t sure if there’d be a lot of interest.”

In total, 21 health-care workers have tested positive for the virus: seven nurses, four medical staff, and 10 other “various allied health staff,” Siragusa said.

Two of those cases are in the Interlake-Eastern region, while the rest are in the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

No health-care workers have tested positive for COVID-19 since April 9, and nine workers have returned to work, Siragusa said.

A total of 15 people have been referred to the hotel isolation centre, but only three have accepted the offer.

As well, a vacant Manitoba Housing apartment building has become a space for people experiencing homelessness to self-isolate, and homeless shelters have stepped up as well.

The centre for homeless people has already had 13 guests since it opened last week. There were 11 people there as of Tuesday evening, Siragusa said. Shared Health expects that centre to have 39 rooms available and in use by the end of this week.

The isolation centres follow proper cleaning protocols, Siragusa said, and patients are checked on every day. If a patient’s health worsens, they will be sent to hospital.

Twenty-one health-care workers in Manitoba have tested positive for COVID-19 so far, but none since April 9. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Patients are fed three meals a day, and given different things to do to pass the time. Those who are asymptomatic have passes that allow them to go outside a couple of times each day, said Siragusa.

Other isolation centres are expected to open in various parts of the province as the pandemic evolves, should the need arise, Siragusa said.

Provincial officials announced Wednesday that a fifth Manitoban diagnosed with COVID-19 had died. That person — the first COVID-19-related death in the province outside Winnipeg — was a woman in her 60s in the Prairie Mountain health region who had underlying health conditions.

She was hospitalized but not placed in the intensive care unit, officials said.

The total number of probable and confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba has risen to 246, the province said Wednesday, with 132 active cases.

Nine people are in hospital, including four in ICU; 108 people have recovered from the illness.

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