COVID-19 ICU admissions force Sask. into health care 'red zone'
The rising tide of COVID-19 patients requiring intensive care has pushed Saskatchewan into the red zone, which triggered out-of-province patient transfers and means the health-care system is severely challenged, according to a presentation to doctors Thursday night.
Presentation slides from the physician town hall – which are generally posted online the following day – show Saskatchewan has the highest number of COVID-19 ICU patients per capita compared to other provinces at any point during the pandemic.
The system is considered to be in the "red zone" when there are between 116 and 149 patients in intensive care; 149 patients and upwards is considered the "black zone."
A slide from the Saskatchewan Health Authority's physician town hall on Oct. 21 shows the province is now in the 'red zone.' (Source: SHA)
As of Friday, there are 117 patients receiving intensive care in Saskatchewan, including 80 COVID-19 patients and 37 non-COVID patients. The province usually has an ICU capacity of 79 beds outside of the pandemic.
Six COVID-19 patients have been transferred to Ontario and three more are expected to be transferred by Sunday. The Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency said Friday transfers will pick up next week, where it’s anticipated two to four patients could be transferred each day.
Triage is widely applied in the red zone and there is an extensive slowdown of services, including cancellation of critical care surgeries, like open heart or neuro procedures, where a patient could need a bed in intensive care.
During a media briefing Friday, Derek Miller, emergency operations centre commander with the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said the province is still in stage one of its triage plan and there are currently no plans to move to the next stage, though a committee is in place to monitor the situation.
ICU admissions are expected to continue increasing in the coming weeks. According to the presentation, care is deteriorating as the number of ICU patients approaches 125.
The slides show there are 57 patients outside the ICU on high-flow oxygen who have a high probability of needing ICU care or would normally be in the intensive care unit under different circumstances.
The health authority said Wednesday the province is currently at an “unsustainable” level in intensive care units because of the the high number of hospitalizations and the impact on other medical procedures.