Helen is 11 months old, likely has cerebral palsy, and can’t get the treatment she needs.
“My worry right now is what kind of long-lasting effect this will have,” her father Graham Dickson told Global News.
On Thursday, Moe announced the province is reorganizing how it responds to the pandemic.
When asked why he wasn’t implementing limits on gathering sizes, the premier said “we’re not going to be implementing broad-based restrictions on 80-some per cent of the population that has gone out and gotten their first shot, over 70 per cent (of the population) that are considered fully vaccinated.”
Dickson called that “an absolute fallacy.”
“The people who are being punished by this inaction are the most vulnerable people, like my daughter.”
In a statement, the government said it couldn’t speak to individual cases.
The statement mentioned the provincial mask mandate and proof of vaccination and negative test requirements, which were implemented in the past three weeks, and said it “constantly reviews the status of COVID-19 in our province.”
It also said the province is focused on improving vaccination uptake.
“While we will not rule out additional public health measures, the Government of Saskatchewan is not putting any new measures forward at this time,” it states.
Dickson said doctors couldn’t provide an exact diagnosis for Helen but say she likely suffers from some kind of disconnection between her brain and her motor functions.
Dickson said one of the theories right now is that she suffered a stroke in utero.
Whatever the exact cause, Helen is developmentally delayed. Whereas most 11-month-olds are crawling, Helen is only now grasping her feet. She’s also cross-eyed and her reflexes are well behind where they should be, Dickson said.
He told Global News he is hoping for an MRI for Helen, but that doesn’t seem likely.
Dickson said doctors are waiting to conduct more tests, including an MRI.
But those tests can’t happen, he said, since the Saskatchewan Health Authority announced on Sept. 23 that it was slowing and postponing services to redirect resources to the overwhelmed intensive care units treating patients with COVID-19.
Dickson said one source of solace was Helen’s physiotherapy treatments, which took place once a month.
But he learned on Thursday, during what would be Helen’s last appointment, that rest of the treatments were postponed indefinitely because the SHA is redeploying staff from there as well.
The SHA did not respond to a request for comment.
Pediatric doctor and University of Saskatchewan associate professor Ayisha Kurji said it’s best if infants are diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.
“Especially because this is the time where they’re developing and getting those skills right,” she said.
“The longer we wait, the more potential there is for adverse impact or a decreased function long term.”
Kurji said procedures like MRIs for children take more resources than they would for an adult, requiring a radiology team and anesthesia to keep the child still.
With the slowdown, those types of procedures aren’t happening right now.
Kurji said the problem extends beyond surgeries.
“All of our clinics are back to pretty much urgent only, in-person (sessions). Everything else is virtual or by phone,” she told Global News.
That includes things like mental health care for adolescents.
“How do you really deal with that on the phone?” she asked. “It’s a lot harder.”
A memo from the pediatric units in the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital and Regina General Hospital, posted on the University’s medical school website, said the changes will remain in effect until the SHA issues further direction.
Dr. Hassan Masri, an intensive care physician in Saskatoon, told Global News the government needs to be transparent about all of the surgeries that were cancelled.
“The (COVID) situation is a lot worse than what Premier Scott Moe has mentioned,” he said, stating the government gave the impression the SHA only cancelled elective surgeries, like hip replacements.
“The reality is these surgeries are not elective by any means,” he said.
“These are procedures that are there to stage a cancer or treat it or prevent it spreading, to deal with abnormalities in the heart, the lung, the brain.”
Dickson places the blame squarely on the premier’s shoulders.
“For all the talk of a strong Saskatchewan and a strong government. I’ve seen the opposite,” he said. “We’re in a weakened state and Scott Moe doesn’t have the backbone to do what is needed.”
Dr. Kurji said the province needs to get the fourth wave of COVID-19 under control.
“If you’re hesitant about the vaccine or you have questions about the vaccine, reach out to someone you trust with health care. So your family doctor, someone who can give you information that is true and correct and can answer your questions.”