COVID-19: SHA working on surge plan, monitoring increased demand on resources

The Saskatchewan Health Authority announced its updated COVID-19 surge plan last week, but no indications have been provided as to when that plan will be activated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Last week, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) revealed its updated COVID-19 surge plan to adjust to anticipated increases in health care demand and staff absences.

However, the health authority has not yet indicated when the plan will be activated in Saskatchewan.

On Jan. 3, hospitalizations were reported at 79 province-wide with 12 patients receiving care in intensive care units.

On Tuesday, the Saskatchewan government announced there were 189 people in hospitals with ICU hospitalizations at 18. Saskatoon has 12 of the province’s 18 ICU patients.

Read more: Saskatchewan Health Authority updates COVID-19 surge plan

During a COVID-19 update from the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre on Tuesday, Derek Miller, the SHA’s recently named interim chief operating officer, said there are a number of strategies they are preparing to deploy in response to increasing demands on their facilities.

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“We have identified certain steps in terms of demand as well as health care worker absences that would require redeployment of staff to support the COVID response,” Miller said during Tuesday’s update. “We also described last week the ‘Go Teams’ that may be established in order to augment our capacity within facilities.”

The SHA was asked if there was a figure for how many hospitalizations would be needed to begin halting surgeries. Miller responded by saying there is no specific number.

Read more: Saskatchewan school divisions pivot as COVID-19 cases continue surge

“I will say that down to the local level, we are putting together plans that would potentially see service slowdowns,” stated Miller. “This may impact surgeries depending on what the demand is for those skilled health care workers in need for deployment.”

Saskatoon’s St. Paul and Royal University hospitals are facilities which recently reached capacity and don’t have any beds for more patients due to an influx of new cases in the city and surrounding area.

Read more: Sask. physicians town hall speaks to COVID-19 case surge

On Sunday, an internal email from the SHA detailed how the bed situation is “very concerning” with 19 admissions pending at St. Paul’s and 20 at Royal University.

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Saskatoon physicians were also asked to re-evaluate their admitted patients and discharge anyone who could be sent home in order to free up capacity for people waiting in emergency rooms.

“Like all facilities across the bay, we have detailed surge plans that describe the steps that would be taken as we start seeing increased corporate demand with the facility,” mentioned Miller. “Saskatoon facilities would be no different than that.”

Read more: COVID-19: Two Saskatoon hospitals at capacity, according to internal email

Miller continued by stating one of the strategies includes the transfer of low acuity patients out of urban centres, and using capacity which might exist in other locations and regional centres so patient needs can be met.

“We may end up having to move people in order … to respond to increases in demand, especially in those urban centres.”

While Miller said there are detailed plans in place regarding how the SHA could expand capacity within facilities, he did not share when those plans would be activated.

— with files from Jeanelle Mendes and Nathaniel Dove

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