Saskatchewan premier apologizes to those left without health care due to COVID-19

Over 275 services have been cut in Saskatchewan in the pandemic's latest wave, including all elective surgeries and operations for open-heart and neurology patients. Michael Bell / The Canadian Press

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says he’s sorry some people have been left without health care as the province redirects resources to deal with its fourth wave of COVID-19.

Moe made the apology Tuesday on CBC’s The Morning Edition radio show, one day after the Saskatchewan Party government announced it was sending six COVID-19 patients to Ontario for care.

“I am sorry that we have experienced those slowdowns here in the province, and the government will do everything we can to ensure those services are available to Saskatchewan people as soon as we are able,” Moe said.

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Vicki Mowat, health critic for the NDP Opposition, said she listened to the interview.

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“That was not an apology,” Mowat said.

“What people are looking for is ownership from the premier and Minister of Health (Paul Merriman) to accept responsibility for how the fourth wave has gone.”

More than 275 services have been cut in Saskatchewan in the pandemic’s latest wave, including all elective surgeries and operations for open-heart and neurology patients. The province has also suspended its organ donation program.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority said this has freed up 175 health-care workers who are looking after COVID-19 patients in hospitals. The province still faces a staffing shortage and has requested intensive care workers from the federal government after other provinces and U.S. states could not help.

Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, has said reduced services are likely to remain until COVID-19 hospitalizations decline dramatically.

“If we have 10 people in the ICU and 30 in acute care with COVID, that is a number I think we can sustain and have no impact on other services,” Shahab said last week.

Read more: Saskatchewan expands eligibility for COVID-19 booster dose

Saskatchewan reported 335 COVID-19 patients in hospitals on Tuesday, 252 of them in acute care and another 83 receiving intensive care. One ICU patient was transferred to Ontario.

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Shahab has said half of all virus transmission in Saskatchewan is occurring in unvaccinated households. He recommends people keep to a bubble of two to three families.

The government remains one of a few provinces without a public health order on gathering restrictions.

“You see this as being a clear example of where there’s light between what Shahab said and what the public health order actually looks like,” Mowat said.

The NDP is urging the government to release recommendations Shahab has made throughout the pandemic and to publicly report them moving forward

The Saskatchewan Party government did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but last week Merriman would not disclose if Shahab made a recommendation on gathering sizes.

“Public health orders are one part of this whole picture, but ultimately it’s about the government, premier and minister of health owning up to their actions, and being upfront to people,” Mowat said.

“And if they don’t have anything to hide, share those recommendations of Dr. Shahab with the public.”


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