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Saskatoon hospitals reach states of ‘critical overcapacity’

WATCH ABOVE: The Saskatoon Health Region says it's dealing with a critical overcapacity situation. As Meaghan Craig reports, the region was one patient away from triggering a Code Orange on Thursday.

SASKATOON –  Overcapacity levels at two hospitals in the region have now reached a “critical” state. Saskatoon Health Region (SHR) officials say for three days patient volumes have been surging at Royal University Hospital (RUH) and St. Paul’s Hospital but Thursday morning put them over the top.

At one point, if there had been a major disaster or even one more patient, SHR would have had to call a Code Orange.

“A Code Orange would be a drastic number of incoming,” said Sandra Blevins with Integrated Health Services for the region.

“We felt like we were one patient away from being a bad situation.”

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According to Blevins, the day started out with 35 people waiting to be admitted at RUH and more than 70 patients in the emergency department for active treatment.

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By mid-afternoon, there were 60 patients waiting in the ER and 37 at St. Paul’s Hospital which was just as busy.

“What we immediately work to do is, is to try to pull patients out of the emergency department into a safe care setting just to give that ER some physical space to work and take on oncoming patients,” added Blevins.

A fire marshal and infection control was even brought in to ensure the safety of patients and health care providers said Blevins. A surge, officials say they saw coming and was forecasted by the region’s predictive model.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan has first confirmed case of Zika virus

This year’s influenza season appears to have peaked with 704 lab confirmed cases of the flu and two deaths in the province. Seasonal illness is on the rise and patient volumes have been increasing in a number of different areas.

“Our intensive care areas are very full, our pediatric intensive care is full, our pediatrics is full and psychiatric or mental health is also very full across the system.”

Health officials say the public can do their part and seek medical attention where it’s most appropriate. They also put a call out to staff since many are down for the count and have fallen ill.

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“If they’re available to work let us know, let their scheduling offices know and we’ll start to book them over the week-end because we still have a seven-day tail that we’re planning for this level of activity with,” said Blevins.

Patients are being moved to other regional facilities when possible and two surgical procedures have been postponed. If the situation worsens, health officials say they may have to postpone surgeries but they will notify patients in advance.

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