COVID-19: Death data removed from internal health authority dashboard

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COVID-19 death data removed from internal health authority dashboard
WATCH: Saskatchewan released its first weekly update of COVID-19 case numbers Thursday. Global News has learned it's not only the public getting less data — senior doctors are also seeing less information. Nathaniel Dove has the exclusive story – Feb 11, 2022

The internal COVID-19 dashboard available only to Saskatchewan Health Authority leaders no longer includes the number of people who died from the disease.

Global News obtained images of the dashboard on several occasions. The latest, from Feb. 9, shows the number of people hospitalized at that time (387), the number of adults and children in intensive care units (27 and 2, respectively) and the number of infectious people in long-term care homes.

Images of the dashboard from Jan. 19 and Feb. 1 show those same categories as well as the number of confirmed deaths, the amount of new tests and positive cases and the total active cases.

An image of the internal COVID-19 dashboard only available to Saskatchewan Health Authority leadership on Feb. 9. Obtained by Global News

Multiple sources confirmed to Global News that doctors asked health authority leadership about the change in a virtual town hall meeting on Thursday evening. Health-care leaders referred the doctor asking to the government.

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The difference between the dashboard showing more and less information corresponds with the province’s change to how it would report COVID data to the public, moving from daily updates to weekly ones.

The internal SHA COVID-19 dashboard on Feb. 1. Obtained by Global News

The first weekly update, which the government released on Feb. 10, included information the province had already reported because the weekly update only provided information up to Feb. 5.

Infectious disease physician Dr. Alex Wong said he was disappointed to see such a lag, especially because the physicians’ town hall included a lot of information.

The biweekly SHA physician town halls are posted to YouTube the day after they take place.

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“I can’t really think of any practical sort of public health-driven or medically-driven reason as to why we couldn’t continue to share the same data that had been shared day after day,” he said.

The internal SHA COVID-19 dashboard on Jan. 19.

Data shared by medical health officers show many of the province’s medical facilities are close to or at capacity.

One slide stated the non-ICU system is at capacity.

It also said health-care workers are experiencing illness, moral fatigue and injury.

“Acute care overall — we are at our highest number of people with COVID-19,” Dr. Johnmark Opondo said.

“Admissions are high across all age groups.”

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Global News asked the SHA for an interview with Dr. Susan Shaw, the health authority’s chief medical officer and an ICU doctor.

A spokesperson said she wasn’t available.

In a statement, SHA emergency operations centre incident commander John Ash told Global News the changes in the dashboard reflect “the need to focus on what is most relevant for informed decision making within the SHA.”

“There were changes made in the metrics included in the internal dashboard as part of the ongoing transition to Living with COVID. Data was removed if it did not support the day-to-day decision making within the SHA,” he said.

Some of the information that was included on the internal dashboard will still be included in the weekly report.

A statement from a Ministry of Health spokesperson said COVID surveillance will now align with reporting for other communicable diseases.

“Public health strategy and resources are being realigned to better focus on living with COVID-19 while continuing to deliver other essential public health programs and services and support the on-going response of the health care system,” Dale Hunter wrote.

“This transition is necessary as Saskatchewan prepares to manage COVID-19 in the long-term.”

Hunter also said existing COVID-19 data, including fatalities and hospitalizations, are available to all senior leadership.

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“To not share it,” Wong said of the information, referring to the government, “I’m just a little incredulous with regards to sort of what the reasoning really is.”

On Tuesday, Premier Scott Moe said there is a “continuing need for personal responsibility,” as the province shifts to living with COVID-19.

Wong said people need up-to-date information to be responsible.

“It is really challenging and frustrating when nobody really has an understanding of where we’re actually at with regards to Omicron so that we can all start to try to make better decisions about, you know, what we’re going to do with our kids.”

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