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Nurses union, NDP respond to Saskatchewan’s rising COVID-19 cases

A health worker collects a nose swab sample for a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test at the Mycorama coronavirus testing facility during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Cernier, Switzerland, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. File

Saskatchewan has the fourth highest active COVID-19 case rate per 100,000 people in the country, as of numbers updated Wednesday.

Manitoba has the highest with 414 active cases per 100,000 people, Alberta in second with 200, Quebec has 135 and Saskatchewan sits at 116 active cases per capita.

North Dakota is 12 times Saskatchewan’s rate at 1,371 active cases per 100,000 people.

“The numbers in North Dakota have exploded,” said Saskatchewan Union of Nurses president Tracy Zambory.

“We’re surrounded to the south, to the east and to the west by COVID disasters that are only getting worse.”

Active COVID-19 case rates per 100,000 people. Source: Government of Canada

It’s crucial the province pays attention to the case numbers in our neighbouring communities, Zambory said.

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She’s calling on the provincial government to make hard decisions that will protect patients, which could include scaling back elective surgeries.

Read more: More measures considered as Saskatchewan approaches 4,500 total coronavirus cases

“If Premier Moe isn’t going to listen to the physicians and nurses and registered health care workers, then who is he listening to on how were going to make sure patients are kept safe in this province?” Zambory questioned.

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The Saskatchewan NDP is also asking the province to do more to prevent things going from bad to worse.

On Thursday, NDP leader Ryan Meili raised concerns about a lack of updated COVID-19 modelling and case projections.

Meili is also asking for more measures like increased testing and contact tracing, class size reductions and a province-wide mask mandate that is enforced.

“Get on the phone, talk to Alberta, talk to Manitoba, talk to North Dakota, all these neighbouring jurisdictions where these case numbers have risen quickly,” Meili said.

“Ask them: what do they wish they’d done three weeks or a month ago to prevent the tragic events that are occurring right now.”

The number of Saskatchewan’s active COVID-19 cases jumped 534 per cent in the last month. Source: Saskatchewan Health Authority

In response to the continuing rise of COVID-19 cases in the province, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) will update its health system readiness plan starting next week, according to a release.

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This includes surge capacity planning and full operations of the SHA’s Emergency Operations Centre (EOC).

Read more: Visitor restrictions coming to long-term, personal care homes in Regina

“We have both offen​sive and defensive strategies in place that our teams have been working on and adapting since the onset of the pandemic,” said SHA CEO Scott Livingstone in a statement, adding surge capacity planning never stopped.

“But with the recent significant rise in cases and hospitalizations, we determined that a fully operational EOC will ensure strong central coordination of those efforts and to signal that we are mobilizing all available resources to combat COVID-19.”

To date, 550 positions have been filled in areas around testing, contact tracing, screening, laboratory processing and HealthLine 811, according to the SHA.

Click to play video 'Severity of next COVID-19 wave depends on public' Severity of next COVID-19 wave depends on public
Severity of next COVID-19 wave depends on public – Nov 1, 2020

Redeploying staff is necessary to meet contact tracing demands and address surges in hospitals and safety in long-term care homes, the release said.

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While service slow-downs are inevitable to prepare for a “sustained surge through the winter months,” Livingstone said it won’t impact the entire health care system like it did at the beginning of the pandemic.

“Our approach now will be to make any service disruptions targeted, localized and as time-limited as possible to ensure Saskatchewan citizens are still getting the health services they need,” Livingstone said.

Service slowdowns and disruptions will be announced as they are implemented.

The Saskatchewan government will announce further measures Friday at 11:30 a.m.