Shared Health is putting out a call for nursing and healthcare workers with varying levels of experience to help manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lanette Siragusa, Shared Health’s chief nursing officer, said all sorts of positions are available, but right now, there is a need for workers in personal care homes, public health, contact tracing, and case monitoring.

She noted they are also preparing for a potential need in acute care.

“It can be anyone who is interested or has experience working in the healthcare system, whether it’s retired workers or students, people who are part time and want to pickup,” Siragusa said.

“We are open to anyone coming to support this cause.”

Siragusa noted people can apply for these positions online, adding there is an expedited hiring process in which they will try to match people’s skills to where there is a need. 

She said Manitoba’s healthcare system is prepared to deal with the pandemic’s impact on the workforce, particularly since people will be out of the workforce for two weeks if they have to self-isolate.

“From a numbers perspective we definitely will work to support the service delivery, but even more important is just the support of our staff,” she said.

“They go to work every day, brave and brilliant. They work as teams, whether it’s support staff or the healthcare providers or the administrative leaders. Everyone’s doing everything they can, all hands on deck to get through this pandemic.”

HOSPITAL CAPACITY

With Doctors Manitoba issuing a red alert on Monday and warning Manitobans that hospital resources could be overwhelmed within days, Siragusa said for now hospital and ICU capacity is holding up.

“We’re watching day by day and we’re preparing for an influx,” she said.

Siragusa said right now there are 80 beds in the system provincially, and there is capacity to admit people into medicine and critical care, with more to come.

“We’re making plans to build more capacity in the coming days,” she said.

SUSPENDING SURGERIES

With a new plan in place for the gradual slowdown of surgeries, Siragusa said only non-urgent and non-life-threatening procedures will be impacted.

She noted surgeries will only be suspended if the person can wait for the procedure without any negative impacts.

“Each surgeon will look specifically at their patient and make that decision,” Siragusa said.

“It’s going to be a long winter for Manitobans, we don’t want to completely shut down services, but we do want to make sure there’s capacity in the event that critical care and medicine needs more space or needs more staff.”

Siragusa added the cancellation of surgeries will also be dependent on which hospital requires more capacity.

“We saw last week that St. Boniface had some staffing issues, so they’re in a bit of a slowdown now, but other sites are not,” she said.

Siragusa noted that unless a patient hears from their surgeon’s office that their surgery has been postponed, they should assume it is still happening.

FOLLOWING PUBLIC HEALTH ORDERS

Siragusa said those working in the healthcare system are doing everything they can to get ready and be prepared, but the healthcare response is directly proportional to how well the public responds and follows guidelines.

“Manitoba did amazing in the spring, I believe that the majority of Manitobans are doing what they need to do to keep this virus under control,” she said.

“So we just need a little bit of a push right now and we need to keep our distance, wear our masks, wash our hands, stay home when sick, and I think we’ll feel a little reprieve in a couple of weeks if we can all hunker down and do that now.”

- With files from CTV’s Katherine Dow.