REGINA -- The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) provided a number of strategies to help strengthen its plan to manage COVID-19.

SHA teams are mobilizing to begin implementing the first phase of the province’s plan to resume health services on May 19. Given outbreaks in different parts of the province, the SHA says there will be variations in how the plan is rolled out in different areas.

The effective reproductive number (ERN) in the far north and north is 2.13, meaning the average COVID-19 patient will infect 2.13 others. The rest of the province has an ERN of 0.75.

Here are the ways the SHA plans to reinforce care in the areas of Public Health and Community Care:

Virtual connections for long-term care residents

Many in long-term care homes are feeling lonely and isolated, according to the SHA, since physical distancing measures required visitation to cease at these centres.

A number of organizations have donated phones and tablets to the health authority in order to bridge the gap felt by residents of long-term care.

“Among them is Westcap Mgt. Ltd. Through a partnership with the COVID-19 Hospital Fund, a collaboration involving all four Saskatoon hospital foundations, Westcap has generously donated $250,000 towards the purchase of, and data plans for, more than 330 iPads,” the SHA said in a news release.

Communications committee for First Nations and Metis communities

A communications committee has been organized to facilitate the timely and accurate communication of COVID-19 issues impacting Indigenous communities.

“Committee membership includes the Saskatchewan Health Authority and partners: Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), Métis Nation-Saskatchewan (MN-S), Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority (NITHA), Athabasca Health Authority, Ministry of Health, and Government Relations.,” the SHA said.

Working with community based organizations

The SHA held a town hall on April 24 which allowed the health authority to share best practices and take questions from around 20 community based organizations. SHA leaders say they are committed to following up with these organizations on a number of issues including mobile testing and mental health and addition supports.

Healthcare worker mental health support

On May 4, the SHA launched a support line for healthcare workers who are seeking mental health support. The line is accessible from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week.

More ambulance services in the north

The SHA has added more advanced care paramedics ad increased ground ambulance services in northern Saskatchewan.

Declaring outbreaks

The health authority is working to improve communication regarding the declaration of COVID-19 outbreaks. It says this declaration is used to mobilize a response to the infection and does not necessarily indicate risk to the public. The SHA said the outbreak that was declared in Prince Albert is over.

Additional supports for La Loche

The SHA is launching the Managed Alcohol Program (MAP) in La Loche. This program will provide regulated doses of alcohol to program participants to address severe alcohol abuse.

On Saturday, the province announced the closure of all La Loche area liquor stores for a two week period. A similar program is running in Saskatoon through the Lighthouse.

Community hospitals to Alternate Level of Care (ALC)

Integrated Rural Health is working to ensure the province can meet the possible demands that could be caused by a COVID-19 surge.

“By temporarily converting the purpose of hospitals in some communities from acute care to care for those requiring palliative, convalescence, respite, rehab or long-term care, we can protect our most vulnerable populations,” the SHA said.

Conversions will occur in phases over four to six weeks.

COVID-19 Pathway

The SHA has created a COVID-19 Pathway which outlines how patients flow through the healthcare system at a local and provincial level.