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Home » News » Manitobans encouraged to protect health of others this holiday season by staying home when sick

Manitobans encouraged to protect health of others this holiday season by staying home when sick

Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
Published Thursday, December 22, 2022

Large holiday gatherings in the coming days have the potential to result in a surge in the number of patients seeking care for respiratory symptoms and illness at Manitoba emergency departments and urgent cares, prompting clinical leaders to remind Manitobans of the importance of celebrating safely.

"The holidays are an important time of year where families and friends have the opportunity to come together and celebrate. It is also a time when multiple respiratory viruses and influenza are circulating broadly in the community," said Dr. Joss Reimer, chief medical officer of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. "This combination often leads to elevated levels of illness in the community in the days following holiday gatherings, which can result in increased pressure on hospitals that are already very busy."

Influenza A and RSV continue to spread throughout the province in high numbers, posing a risk to vulnerable Manitobans including very young children, the elderly and the immunocompromised.

Manitobans are encouraged to take preventative measures before visiting with loved ones, particularly those at most risk of severe respiratory illness.

"Twenty Manitobans - 13 adults and seven children - have been admitted to our intensive care units over the past week due to a respiratory illness, such as influenza, RSV, and COVID-19," said Dr. Shawn Young, chief operating officer of HSC Winnipeg. "So while my family, like so many Manitobans, is looking very forward to in-person gatherings over the holidays, we will be self-screening for any symptoms, washing our hands frequently, and staying home if we are ill."

A number of common preventative measures are encouraged for all segments of the population. They include:

  • Refraining from drinking beverages from the same glass;
  • Eating from a shared bowl or off of someone else's plate;
  • Sneezing or coughing into your elbow instead of hands;
  • Washing your hands frequently;
  • Wiping down high-touch surfaces frequently, such as countertops and door knobs; and
  • Parents of newborns and very young infants are encouraged to avoid crowded places and consider asking people to avoid touching their child's face or hands, including kissing. Anyone with direct contact with the child should be reminded to wash their hands and ideally wear a mask.

Vaccination also continues to be strongly encouraged, as a proven effective preventative measure against the most severe effects of the flu and COVID-19. Vaccination is also recommended for people who think they may have already had the flu, as Influenza B has yet to arrive and is generally harder on vulnerable populations. Complications of influenza include pneumonia, heart failure and invasive bacterial infections. Vaccine appointments can be scheduled online at https://www.gov.mb.ca/covid19/vaccine/finder.html.

Today's reminder comes after an early start to respiratory virus season saw record patient volumes at HSC Children's emergency department, resulting in higher wait times. The effect this had on overall wait times across all Winnipeg sites was less significant - ninetieth percentile wait times improved in November, month-over-month, while median times increased.

A brief data synopsis of various emergency and urgent care metrics is below:

  • Ninety per cent of patients were seen within 7.83 hours across all sites in November, a 22-minute improvement from the previous month;
  • Median wait times increased by nearly 11 minutes in November, to 3.18 hours;
  • The number of daily visits to emergency and urgent care increased in November to an average of 806.5, up from 783.5 the previous month;
  • The median length of stay for patients in emergency or urgent care who are awaiting admission to an inpatient unit was 22.2 hours in November. This is a 16.8-minute improvement from October, when the median length of stay for patients awaiting admission was 22.48 hours.
  • The overall left without being seen (LWBS) rate improved, from 16.3 per cent in October to 14.5 per cent in November. The LWBS rate at HSC Winnipeg's adult ED was 26.6 per cent, which is an improvement from November, when the rate was 29.7 per cent.

"While these wait times continue to be well above what we would like to see, we want to remind patients that in an emergency, calling 911 or going to an emergency department or urgent care centre is the right decision," said Young. "All patients are assessed and triaged upon arrival and care is being provided by highly skilled care teams who continue to prioritize the sickest and most injured patients for immediate care."

Real-time waits for emergency departments, urgent care centres, walk-in connected care clinics and walk-in clinics can be seen at MyRightCare.ca.

Advice for parents on how to treat their sick or injured child, as well as when and where to take them for care, can be viewed at KidCareMB.ca.

Monthly ED wait times data, as well as an FAQ, is available here: Monthly Wait Time Reporting | Winnipeg Regional Health Authority

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