Serious medical decisions are being made to make space for life-saving hospital care.

While nothing is "off the table" for Public Health, Atwal says they are already have put in place "really restrictive restrictions" for Manitobans. 

"There is not much more than we can do. I think people need to realize the situation we are in in Manitoba. Our acute care system is in trouble," Dr. Jazz Atwal, Manitoba's Deputy Chief Public Health Officer, says in a Friday press conference.

Five patients have been moved out of the province to two Ontario hospitals after Manitoba hospitals maxed out on intensive care space. As of Friday morning, 296 people are in the hospital due to the virus, with 79 of those intensive care patients. Lanette Siragusa, Manitoba's Chief Nursing Officer, says 10 people were admitted into ICU on Thursday.

atwal 21The Deputy Public Health Officer says vaccinations are key to keeping hospitalizations down. (Screenshot: Government of Manitoba/YouTube)

Atwal says 82 per cent of all people in the hospital did not receive the COVID-19 vaccine and another eight per cent were infected before their vaccine gave protection from the virus.

"We are at a critical time right now," Atwal says. "We must bring our case numbers down and reduce the growing stress on our healthcare system. We need to do the hard work now in order to be in a good position later."

Manitobans 40-year-old and younger became eligible for their vaccinations two weeks ago on May 7, with it opening to those as young as 12 on May 14. Atwal says vaccines take at least two weeks to be effective.

"We are going to vaccinate our way out of this pandemic. We are going to vaccinate our way out of having acute care issues," Atwal says.

Siragusa says this will be a "game-changer."

As of Friday morning, 714,012 doses of vaccine have been administered in Manitoba, including second doses.

siragusa 21Siragusa is seeing younger patients being admitted, requiring longer hospital stays. (Screenshot: Government of Manitoba/YouTube)

In order to manage the spike in hospital demand, contingency plans must be put in place including stopping almost all elective surgeries. and treating some patients at home.

"We did not want to decrease surgery but we had to because of what we are trying to prioritize. Hopefully, that will be very short-lived," Siragusa says. 

She says they are looking at what services can be decreased with redeployment, increasing recruitment, such as what Premier Brian Pallister asking the Prime Minister for critical care trained nurses and respiratory therapists.

"The prime minister signalled his willingness to provide whatever additional support he could to meet these requests, for which I thanked him. Our government will continue to keep the lines of communication with Ottawa open as we work together to protect Manitobans and all Canadians," Pallister says in a Friday statement.

During a press conference on Thursday, Pallister said while they were considering asking other provinces and the military for help, they have not been in conversation with them yet.

A total of five Manitobans have been transferred to Ontario to receive intensive care, including three in Thunder Bay and two in Sault Ste. Marie.

Siragusa says they may begin conversations with other provinces, saying they need to look at all options. She says the partnership with Ontario could see up to 20 patients in five hospitals being treated in Northern Ontario, making an impact on the province's healthcare system.

Some surgeries and other medical treatments are being postponed, freeing up 50 full-time nursing positions at hospitals across Winnipeg.

"The 129 ICU patients is the same number where we were peaking in Wave Two. This week we are seeing patients who could require care for longer periods of time," Siragusa says.

In the past two days, Manitoba has seen 1,197 new COVID-19 cases. 

Both Health Minister Heather Stefanson and Siragusa say there is the capacity for an increase in hospital demand over the long weekend.