01/23/2014 09:35 EST | Updated 03/25/2014 05:59 EDT

More surgeries postponed in Winnipeg, could take weeks to fix flooded rooms

WINNIPEG - The chief medical officer for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority says the timeline for reopening 14 operating rooms at St. Boniface Hospital might be measured in weeks instead of days.

Dr. Brock Wright says the flooding that closed the ORs earlier this week is "a very significant event."

But he says he wants to reassure the public that the situation is under control.

Wright says anyone needing emergency surgery will get it at a different hospital.

He also says there are contingency plans in place if a patient at St. Boniface needs emergency surgery and it is unsafe to transfer them.

More than 70 surgeries were postponed Wednesday and Thursday when air exchange units that circulate oxygen to the 14 operating rooms failed, causing some water pipes to freeze and burst.

The bulk of urgent and emergent surgeries are being redirected to Health Sciences Centre and Grace Hospital. Others will be distributed around other hospitals.

Elective surgeries are being postponed a day or two in advance.

“We really appreciate the impact that cancelling elective surgeries has on patients and their families," says Wright. "It can be very distressing. Needless to say, we are doing everything possible to minimize the number of elective surgery cases that we have to cancel and we will work very hard once the situation improves to re-book those elective surgical cases as quickly as possible."

EMS has added additional ambulance capacity to help with patient transfers. Some patients are being transferred back to St. Boniface Hospital for post-operation recovery.

There were two operations underway when the water began to leak. The water did not reach those rooms while the patients were in them. One, a plastic surgery case, was completed. The other, a cardiac operation which had just got underway, was transferred to Health Sciences Centre.

Wright says the surgery was completed successfully.