COVID-19 has been an expensive challenge for Manitoba’s health-care system, but Prairie Mountain Health still managed to produce a small surplus.
According to financial documents released during the health region’s annual general meeting Wednesday, financial assistance from Manitoba Health and Seniors Care for COVID-19-related costs allowed PMH to come out of the 2020-21 fiscal year with a surplus of approximately $385,000.
"Some normal activities were curtailed resulting in reduced costs in certain areas," the region’s annual report states. "However, there were many areas in which COVID-19 resulted in expenditures that would not otherwise have been incurred ... additional funding was received from Manitoba Health to offset incremental COVID-19 costs to the extent that they caused a deficit."
The health region’s fiscal year runs from April 1 through March 31.
In an introductory video played at the beginning of the meeting, PMH chief executive officer Brian Schoonbaert and other representatives from the health region provided an update on how COVID-19 has affected staff and patients and what has been done to meet the additional challenges presented by the pandemic.
"The past year has been like riding a rollercoaster," Schoonbaert said.
Staff were thanked for their hard work, as well as retired health-care workers who returned to help meet the increased demand for care.
To maintain residents’ access to health-care, the region stepped up the availability of remote appointments with doctors, clinicians and other health-care providers.
These virtual appointments have been popular enough among both providers and patients that the health regions intend to continue them once the pandemic is over.
The second wave of the pandemic, which hit Prairie Mountain Health first among regions in Manitoba, was described as a dark time because of the number of personal care home residents who were lost to the virus.
However, the video took time to highlight stories of compassion from the pandemic, like people reaching out to care home residents and showing support for health-care workers.
Schoonbaert said PMH is getting close to figuring out what percentage of its staff are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Some issues with data entry have required staff to manually revise the status of some staff who are vaccinated but are listed as unvaccinated. The final percentage of vaccinated workers could be known as early as the end of this week, and Schoonbaert believes that figure will be at 90 per cent or higher.
He added, no one is being fired for not being unvaccinated, as those staff members can instead be tested for the virus regularly. However, if anyone were to leave because they don’t want to get vaccinated, they wouldn’t be able to come back as an agency worker as they are also subject to the same vaccination requirement.
To allow long-term care home residents greater access to visitors, the provincial government installed visitation pods at homes around Manitoba to facilitate distanced visits from guests.
These pods were apparently less active during the summer because they are not air-conditioned, but use is expected to increase as the weather gets colder.
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