The recent rise in COVID-19 cases is putting increasing pressure on Saskatchewan’s health care system, according to a nurses union president.
The Saskatchewan Union of Nurses is calling for a temporary slowdown of services as the province grapples with a fourth wave of COVID-19.
Surging case numbers, staff shortages and crowded ICUs have created what Tracy Zambory, president of the union, called a “pressure cooker.”
She said measures need to be put in place now.
“The people in the health care system – doctors, nurses – everyone is exhausted. They’re burnt out. It’s never-ending and now we are looking at pretty significant human health resource shortages,” shared Zambory.
“People are working when there should have been 15 present, but there are seven in an emergency room and the patient load is just crazy. There is no other word to describe it.”
Zambory mentioned how she spoke with an emergency room physician based in Saskatoon on Friday who told her they are “under pressure like they have never felt before.”
Another example she provided is in Regina where she heard from staff at one of the hospitals about ambulances being “backed up for blocks” for people seeking care and going to the emergency rooms.
“The pressure is much, much greater compared to last year,” Zambory said. “People are coming into the emergency rooms across this province sicker and younger than ever before. They are coming in droves.”
Zambory suggested conversations need to be had with the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) and the provincial government to determine which services would be involved in a slowdown.
She said they are specifically asking for a 20 per cent reduction in services so the health care system has room to “breathe” and resources are available to complete tasks.
“We are so far behind in contact tracing and testing that we’re now being told if you test positive for COVID-19, then you have to do your own contact tracing. That’s not acceptable.”
A response from the Ministry of Health late Tuesday afternoon stated how the government is working with the SHA to observe impacts to service levels and capacities in Saskatchewan’s hospitals.
“We know that there were many patients impacted by previous service reductions throughout the pandemic. We know that extended wait times are challenging for these patients and we are striving to maintain care and services for non-COVID patients who require our services,” the statement continued.
“As the pandemic continues, we are working closely with the SHA to monitor service levels and will respond to address system capacity needs as required, including through targeted service slowdowns to support the immediate needs of patients.”
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