Saskatchewan official Opposition leader Ryan Meili called on the provincial government to do more after a notice sent out to health-care workers at the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital showed inpatient capacity was at 108 per cent.
The letter, sent on Thursday morning and obtained by Global News, also stated the pediatric intensive care unit was at 125 per cent and “staffing pressures remain high.”
Sent on behalf of a manager in SHA, the letter said keeping with the current surge plan, non-urgent direct admissions are being deferred, with the date yet to be determined.
There are also discussions with surgical services taking place “about the appropriateness of continuing with booked surgeries.”
“On-service inpatient teams will be asked to: identify patients from outside of Saskatoon to be repatriated to another facility with or without concurrent care in partnership with local providers; modify management plans to expedite discharge; (and) restrict admission to only urgent cases.”
Meili described the capacity at JPCH as “bursting at the seams.”
Health Minister Paul Merriman told reporters based on information from his staff, 170 beds were occupied out of 201 planned beds.
“There may be some pressures in specific wards where they are at or just over capacity, but we do have flex within the children’s hospital to be able to move them if need be,” Merriman added.
He also accused Meili of “fear mongering” when Meili referred to the capacity situation as “code black.”
“I don’t want parents out there to be panicking, because if people hear things like ‘it’s over capacity’ (and) ‘it’s full’ then they might not bring their children in that needs medical treatment,” Merriman said.
Meili said Merriman was “confused.”
“(It) really demonstrates that he hasn’t spent the time working in or visiting health care facilities. When we talk about the capacity in that hospital in particular, we talk about the inpatient ward that’s at 108 per cent so already over capacity.”
“He’s talking about beds that are for newborn babies or neonatal ICUs. That’s not a place you can send a full-size kid to go and get care. It just doesn’t work that way.”
Meili said instead of looking at numbers, the premier and minister should visit the hospital to get a first-hand look at how things are going.
Premier Scott Moe agreed that there is some “localized pressures” particularly in urban centres.
“We are thankful we have the investment in infrastructure such as the (JPCH), we’re thankful for the initiatives over the last dozen years resulting in about 1,000 doctors that are offering services here in Saskatchewan,” Moe said.
Moe also pointed to the recently tabled budget that earmarks $318.7-million in new spending for health care, some of which will be focused on recruiting and retaining health-care workers.
Meili asked for a plan from the government that would ensure every child that needs a bed, has one available.
Moe again stated the government would put support in place to hire and train more health-care workers. He added there may be a “little challenge” at the JPCH but the overall provincial capacity is at 93 per cent.
“Tell that to the parents of a kid who’s been in (the emergency room) for three days. Tell that to the pediatricians and the nurses who are run off their feet, who are scared of what’s going to happen to those sick kids because they aren’t able to take care of them,” Meili responded.
Health Minister Paul Merriman said the province has equipment and overflow capacity to ensure patients are safe.
Global News has reached out to the Saskatchewan Health Authority. This article will be updated when a response is received.
In an email to Global News, the Saskatchewan Health Authority said pediatrics “continues to face significant demand for care across the province at multiple sites, including Prince Albert Victoria Hospital and at the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital.”
SHA added capacity can change regularly throughout the day depending on discharges and admissions.
The pressure faced is “primarily non-COVID related.”
Seasonal pediatric respiratory season is also underway with a heavy volume of patients with respiratory syncytial or RSV within JPCH.
RSV is a common virus that can cause mild, cold-like symptoms. SHA said most people recover in a week or two but RSV can also be serious, especially in infants and older adults.
“The extended and sustained RSV season is causing a higher than normal surge, coupled with teams focused on ensuring services such as surgeries are maintained,” SHA stated.
“Health care teams are focused on ensuring that all children from across the province receive care appropriate to their level of acuity and complexity, no matter where their home community may be, as well as minimizing disruption to pediatric services