Saskatchewan Health Authority updates COVID-19 surge plan

One of the key strategies in the updated Sask. COVID-19 surge plan includes establishing "Go Teams" who are medical professionals to help maintain continuity of essential services. File / Global News

Due to the Omicron variant, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) has updated its COVID-19 surge plan based on the expected increase in demand and increase in staff absenteeism.

Health officials say this plan includes five key strategies which will help ensure Saskatchewan patients continue to receive the best care possible.

Read more: SHA activates next surge plan level due to escalating COVID-19 cases

Officials will establish a team of medical professionals, also referred to as “Go Teams,” who will be deployed to help maintain the continuity of essential services in Saskatchewan.

The plan will also include optimizing acute care capacity and emergency department flow, maintaining enhancements to EMS to manage additional demand, implementing human resource strategies like cross-training staff to meet multiple system needs and utilizing Supplemental Workforce Teams. The surge plan will be also be time-limited for targeted service slowdowns when and where it is required.

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“This is a proactive plan that would be implemented in the event the province was to experience a significant increase in acute care patients at hospitals, or if the health-care system faced potential staffing shortages in a situation where large numbers of healthcare providers were required to self-isolate due to COVID,” said Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA) president Marlo Pritchard.

Read more: Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe tests positive for COVID-19

Health officials stated the plan would ensure human resources are available to step up capacity in phases as demand escalates and will ensure any impacts to services are as short and targeted as possible.

“As we scale up to meet the increased demand due to Omicron, we know it will impact our health-care teams,” stated Derek Miller, interim chief operating officer and lead for SHA’s emergency response.

“These strategies will help protect our ability to deliver essential lifesaving supports for those most in need, ensure any effects on services are as temporary as possible and position us to rapidly and safely return services to normal as pressures subside.”

The president for the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses said they find it discouraging when there are no consultations regarding the surge plans.

“Surge plans in a system that we’re using in a wait and see approach, we don’t have the capacity for anymore care in the system,” said Tracy Zambory. “We are at its peak and our emergency rooms are overflowing. We’ve got people in the hospital near to full with illnesses outside of COVID because we got so far behind in the fourth wave.”

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Zambory said Saskatchewan is in for difficult times given that the province has yet to recover from the fourth COVID-19 wave.

“We need to have some concrete leadership on this matter,” she said. “We just have to expect what’s coming, we just have to accept it? Well, that’s easy to say if you’re not the one on the front line trying to hold everything together. That is not a way to lead us through a pandemic.”

Barbara Cape, the president of the Service Employees’ International Union (SEIU) West says she is glad the SHA is doing a surge plan in advance but has some concerns.

“My concern is the pandemic and the various surges have laid bare the critical staffing issues for so damn long in the health-care system,” said Cape. “On one hand I’m happy they are planning for it but on the other hand, this is not a one-shot deal. We need to be doing something better about staffing in the health-care system.”

Health officials said that additional updates will be provided on any service changes that may be required as demand increases.

To view further details of the Omicron surge plan, visit the SHA website.

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