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First step toward resuming paused services in Saskatchewan health system begins

The Saskatchewan Health Authority has begun to resume some services in varying parts of the province as a cautious first phase of its resumption plan.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority has begun to resume some services in varying parts of the province as a cautious first phase of its resumption plan. Joe Raedle/Getty Images/File

The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) says, in many cases, patients can expect their health care experience will be different from before the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Some health services in varying parts of the province started back up Tuesday as part of the first phase of the SHA’s service resumption plan.

READ MORE: A timeline of the novel coronavirus in Saskatchewan

“It’s a delicate balance we begin today toward a ‘new normal’ while still responding to the realities of a global pandemic,” SHA CEO Scott Livingstone said in a press release.

He added that teams have and will continue to balance service resumption plans with the necessary health system capacity required for COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients.

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Phase one started Tuesday with a focus on resuming a few paused services, such as outpatient physiotherapy appointments, kidney health services, some laboratory services and home care.

SHA noted that not all everyday health services and surgery bookings listed in the first step of the plan will resume May 19 or province-wide. It added that service resumption will vary based on factors, including considerations around localized outbreak status and capacity.

Health officials said patients’ health-care experience will differ from prior to the pandemic because of added protective measures, such as changes to waiting room practices to promote physical distancing and screening at facilities.

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SHA said these measures may cause delays and inconveniences for patients but are necessary for safety reasons.

READ MORE: Lloydminster Hospital head links coronavirus spread to masking policy

A pause on non-urgent and elective surgeries two months ago was necessary to minimize risk to those not needing emergent care while ensuring hospitals had the capacity for a surge in COVID patients, according to a press release.

In the first phase, SHA said surgeries will be expanded to now include “six-week urgent cases.”

“A patient’s priority on the surgery list will be determined based on a clinical assessment by their physicians, in consultation with the patient,” Dr. Rashaad Hansia, SHA’s physician executive of integrated health urban said in a statement.

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“It’s not based only on the type of surgery needed. Given the complexity of the work involved to resume surgical services in as safe a manner as possible, we won’t see a significant increase right away.

“What we are seeing is surgeons working with their patients to assess their needs and determine who qualifies for the six-week urgent category, then scheduling those for today and in the weeks ahead.”

The availability of surgical bookings for each provider is being balanced across all the surgical specialties, and considers the availability of appropriate post-surgical care such as nursing and therapies, according to SHA.

SHA released its service resumption plan on May 5 as a framework only. It said all future phases will be based on assessing factors constantly to ensure it is safe to move forward.

What you can and can’t do in Saskatchewan as more coronavirus restrictions eased
What you can and can’t do in Saskatchewan as more coronavirus restrictions eased

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

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Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.