The Saskatchewan Health Authority announced it will be moving into the next level of its surge plans to address the surge of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan.
The SHA Emergency Operations Centre says it has directed all leader and care teams to activate the second phase of surge plans, which includes the slowdown of elective surgeries.
SHA CEO Scott Livingstone says the fourth wave of COVID-19 has pushed the province’s healthcare system to the brink.
“We’ve hit a critical point, and we are now on the verge of the largest test of our healthcare system since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Livingstone. “Teams are being asked to support the healthcare system’s ability to maintain services for those at greatest risk, while ensuring the SHA can support vaccine delivery, as well as testing and contact tracing to help slow the spread of COVID-19.”
The new directive will see an increase of intensive care beds from the current baseline of 79 up to 175 beds. It will also boost capacity for non-ICU patients, being able to care for 350 patients, up from 255.
SHA care teams have been told to focus support on COVID-19 care while also caring for urgent situations like emergency room visits and cancer treatments and procedures.
Livingstone says even though the focus will be on COVID-19, people do not need to refrain from seeking the care they need.
“We want to be clear that if people have an emergency, or need critical care, they should still present at our hospitals,” said Livingstone. “While the pressures are significant on our healthcare system, we do not want to see people deferring necessary emergency services.”
Criteria for what procedures will be temporarily paused is being developed and affected patients will be notified in the coming weeks.
Livingstone says the pressure on hospitals right now was preventable, and it’s only going to get worse if people don’t get vaccinated.
“Pressure on our hospitals is a direct result of the ongoing pandemic of the unvaccinated, the result is that many Saskatchewan residents will not go without everyday healthcare services,” said Livingstone. “The danger we face is that this will escalate to the point where many Saskatchewan residents won’t be able to reliably access critical care emergency services. That point is not far off.”
The SHA adds staff are being deployed to areas in the province that are facing extreme care demands to provide relief and escalate capacity.