Tracy Zambory, the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN) president, says the overcapacity crisis in Saskatoon hospitals resulted in the death of a patient.
“Because of overcrowding, because of short staffing our worst nightmare occurred,” she said.
“We had a patient in this province pass away because they did not get the care they needed in a timely fashion.”
Internal Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) emails, released to the media by the Saskatchewan NDP on Tuesday, revealed what the SHA is calling an “extreme overcapacity crisis” in Royal University Hospital (RUH) and St. Paul’s Hospital.
The SHA confirmed to Global News on Tuesday in an email that a patient died at RUH and that a critical incident review was being carried out.
According to a government website, a critical incident is “a serious adverse health event including, but not limited to, the actual or potential loss of life, limb or function related to a health service provided by, or a program operated by, a health care organization.”
On Wednesday, the SHA said in a statement that the death was “determined not to be a critical incident.”
The statement also said the findings of critical incident reviews are not made public because of the sensitive and private patient details that are discussed.
Zambory said she stands by its members and their assessment.
“I am speaking about the same person,” she said.
“And that’s the tip of the inevitable iceberg we’re up against here. There’s so many factors that are causing this.”
Zambory said the emergency departments are crowded because too many patients are sent to the ER because of a lack of options.
“We have people coming into the emergency rooms with untreated mental health and addictions. We’ve been talking for some time about how we are in an opioid crisis in this province.”
She said things like addiction therapy, mental health services and long-term care need to be improved to relieve the pressure on emergency room staff.
“If someone calls in sick they’re not being replaced. If there is an empty line on the roster it’s not being filled,” she said, speaking about nurses.
“They’re being expected to do far, far more with far less.”
She said the government, SHA and unions need to meet to begin a discussion about a solution.
“There is no light at the end of the tunnel just right now because people don’t want to talk about being in the tunnel,” she said.