“People are dying!”
That was one chant lead by protesters outside Saskatchewan health minister Paul Merriman’s office Wednesday afternoon.
The parking lot was filled with concerned citizens, current and former health care professionals, and front-line workers calling for the province to do more to protect its people.
With new case numbers at an all-time high, and emergency rooms and ICUs filling up, protesters said they want public health measures re-instated.
“The only choice that they have to act now and save lives, or act in a month or a few weeks and see more people dead and potentially lose more Saskatchewan Party voters,” said molecular biologist Dr. Kyle Anderson, who spoke at the protest.
Organizers said the province has taken too much of a hands-off approach, including no longer conducting its own contact tracing.
“If you’ve been tested for COVID and you’re positive and you’re out grocery shopping today, there is nobody that’s going to stop you and fine you,” said organizer Theresa MacKinnon, a retired public health nurse.
“This is wrong.”
Some former and current health-care providers were among those protesting. They said their colleagues are frustrated with the lack of support.
The Saskatchewan Union of Nurses said many are overworked and overwhelmed as ICUs see an “extreme influx” of COVID-19 patients, many in the 20-40 age range.
“They’re finding themselves virtually being drowned by this influx of patients with this shortage of staff,” said union president Tracy Zambory.
“There’s such fear of not being able to deliver safe patient care, that there’s going to be a catastrophic event happen and that there’s going to be significant amount of fallout.”
She said SUN would like the province to bring back mandated public health measures, as well as to consider slowing down health services to focus staff on treating the growing number of new COVID-19 patients.
One protester said the province needs to take control.
“It’s not in the power of the citizens just to do this stuff, because we know that personal responsibility just doesn’t work, but we do know the mask regulation does work,” said John Cameron.
Opposition leader Ryan Meili said at the protest he wants Saskatchewan to follow the lead of other juristictions.
“Bring back masks, vaccine mandates, where appropriate, schools, hospitals , big public events and do your testing, do your tracing. These are key elements that we know what works,” Meili said.
In an email, the province said it is continuing to monitor the COVID-19 situation, and will continue engaging with the Saskatchewan Health Authority on the system’s capacity.