Ottawa to send epidemiologists, lab techs and others to help COVID-19-ravaged Manitoba

The Canadian government is responding to Manitoba’s urgent plea for help battling COVID-19 and over-capacity intensive care units by preparing to deploy epidemiologists and laboratory technicians and to increase testing capacity in the province.

The ministers of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Health and National Defence confirmed in a news release Monday that the federal government will provide a range of supports to Manitoba, which reported a record high number of patients in intensive care that same day.

The news release said the federal government would send human resources, deploy medical staff through the Canadian Red Cross and provide support from the Canadian Armed Forces.

CBC News has reached out to those agencies for more information and will update this story when they respond.

The Canadian Armed Forces is currently supporting vaccine rollouts in up to 23 First Nations communities in Manitoba until the end of June. It’s not clear if the province has requested its help beyond that.

Ottawa is also preparing to send epidemiologists, public health workers and laboratory technicians and from the Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada, the news release said.

“Manitoba is appreciative of additional assistance, just as we were happy to assist other jurisdictions in times of need,” said provincial spokesperson Blake Robert.

Although the news release says Ottawa is still waiting on a formal request for federal assistance, Robert said that request was made Friday.

Fourteen people who landed in Manitoba ICUs after getting COVID-19 had been transferred to hospitals across Ontario as of Monday to free up space in the strained units, said a spokesperson for Shared Health, the provincial health organization.

On top of the patients moved to Ontario, the total number of COVID-19 ICU patients from the province Monday was 88 — a record high for Manitoba.

Manitoba needs up to 50 critical care nurses and 20 respiratory therapists, as well as up to 50 contact tracers from Statistics Canada, Premier Brian Pallister said after talking with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday.

“This is going to be — we hope — a temporary thing and a short-term thing, but the sooner we get a little bit of backup help here the better,” Pallister said at the time.

Pallister has also asked the U.S. for surplus doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. to be shipped to Canada.

Shared Health’s Chief Nursing Officer Lanette Siragusa also mentioned in a news conference Friday that any health-care workers sent to Manitoba would be stationed at three Winnipeg acute care facilities.

A spokesperson from the federal government said the precise details of the resources deployed will be worked out with the province in the coming days.