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Regina COVID ICU rooms move to double occupancy

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Regina hospitals have taken a new step in their surge plan, by moving two COVID-19 patients receiving critical care into the same room with privacy dividers.

Lori Garchinski tertiary care executive director with the Saskatchewan Health Authority called this double occupancy move “unprecedented.” Garchinski pleaded with the public to follow public health guidelines and get vaccinated when it is their turn to reduce the strain on the province’s health-care system.

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“You have no idea what it’s like to walk into an intensive care unit where every single person is there for the same reason,” Garchinski said.

Dr. Jeffrey Betcher, critical care physician in Regina, said that physicians and staff have completed simulations to ensure that COVID-19 patients, including those with variants, can be safely placed in the same room.

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“We’ve chosen to put two patients in a single room rather than expanding to other areas outside of the ICU because it’s more efficient to cohort patients within the traditional ICU areas with the full support staff, rather than having them spread beyond the normal areas of the ICU,” Betcher said.

He added that as demand rises, Regina hospitals are also transferring patients who no longer need specialized care to rural and northern hospitals to continue treatment.

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Garchinski added that the ICU capacity in Regina has increased by 18 beds on top of the 27 current beds.

Garchinski said the plan is to continue with double occupancy and there are also plans in place to use rooms in the surgical ICU and cardiac care units when needed. She said there are plans to extend to other medical surgical units as well, but the goal is to keep COVID-19 patients close together for nurses, respiratory therapists and physicians to treat efficiently.

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Betcher, said one trend he is noticing that he hasn’t previously in his career, is a number of instances where multiple family members end up in the ICU with COVID-19.

Betcher added that leadership is working to secure adequate medical supplies such as medications. He explained that health-care workers treat COVID-19 patients with large doses of sedation drugs and sometimes even paralytics.

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Garchinski added that the health authority spent a lot of time in the spring acquiring ventilators, which she said will not be a major concern while caring for patients. She said issues are more related to manpower and space to care for patients.

Garchinski said there are currently 45 ICU beds in Regina hospitals, 30 of which are occupied by patients who are COVID-19 positive or have COVID-like symptoms. She said it’s important to note that this number is just a snapshot and changes constantly with new patients being admitted to the ICU, patients leaving the ICU and patients dying.

Garchinski said what we are seeing now in terms of COVID-19 patients in the ICU, likely happened a week or two weeks ago.

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