Canadian Armed Forces set to deploy additional military personnel to help in Regina hospitals
Saskatchewan continues to receive military help as the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) plan to deploy more medical staff to Regina later this week to help alleviate hospital pressure in both acute and critical care units.
According to CAF spokesperson Bonnie Wilken, four general duty nurses and four medical technicians will be integrated with Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) staff at the Regina General Hospital (RGH).
The nurses are expected to arrive in the province on Friday. However, it is unclear when the medical technicians will be deployed.
“They will backfill SHA nurses assigned to support the intensive care unit surge and they will relieve pressure on acute care in the province,” Wilken said in an email.
This is in addition to six critical care nursing officers and one senior nursing officer that started taking shifts at RGH on Thursday.
Regina ICU physician Dr. Eric Sy says military aid, along with following public health advice, will help Saskatchewan get through the fourth wave.
“Everyone is tired of COVID at this point in time,” he said. “We’re getting close to a situation where this is more manageable, but we’re still not there yet.”
According to Sy, it takes three to four nurses to manage one ICU bed, simply because one nurse cannot work 24/7.
He says any additional nurses will be help give staff the breaks they require.
CAF personnel assigned as medical support will only be allowed to work in medical facilities after completing mandated training, according Wilken.
CAF is expecting to support the province until Nov. 19, but are prepared to extend aid if necessary.
As of Thursday morning, 100 patients were being treated in Saskatchewan ICUs, according to the SHA. Fifty-eight of those patients were COVID-positive.
According to Sy, ICU physicians ideally manage around 15 patients. However, that has not been the case during the fourth wave.
“Once you have volumes of patients in excess of 20 to 25 that certainly puts a lot of strain on one person,” he said.
During the fourth wave, Sy says ICU nurses have been forced to double up on patients. However, he’s hopeful that could change.
“Lower volumes of patients will get us back to that one to one ratio, which is our usual standard of practice for critical care patients,” he said.
The SHA says the ICUs are operating at 127 per cent of normal capacity, which is 79 beds.
A total of 19 COVID-positive ICU patients have been transferred to Ontario hospitals.
Four more patient transfers are expected by end of the day Thursday, with another five scheduled over the weekend.
Premier Scott Moe says there is no magic number that will end out-of-province transfers. However, he says health officials are monitoring the situation everyday.
“If those patients can be cared for in the province of Saskatchewan with the resources that we have, safely, and with the highest level of care, we certainly will keep them here,” Moe said.
While there have been talks about repatriation of patients, Moe says those decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis.
Meanwhile, the official opposition leader says more restrictions would help further reduce stress on the healthcare system.
Ryan Meili is calling on the provincial government to implement restrictions laid out in a recent letter written by Saskatchewan’s medical health officers. Those recommendations include gathering limits, proof of vaccination requirements for additional venues, and in some cases, taking away the negative test option for health-care employees.
“This is not going well,” Meili said, referencing the 26 COVID-19 related deaths recorded in the last three days.
Given a downward trend in cases, Moe says the government will look at further restrictions only if the trajectory changes.