Hundreds of services resume as majority of Sask. healthcare workers return to home units
After redeploying hundreds of healthcare workers to deal with the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly all eligible staff are back working in their home departments, according to the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA).
Staff deployed to contact tracing, testing and outbreak management were eligible for redeployment in phase one of the SHA’s service resumption plan. However, healthcare employees working in acute and intensive care as well as vaccination deliveries are not being sent back to their home departments yet.
“Those redeployments will remain in place where they are required to support surge capacity,” according to a press release from the SHA.
Derek Miller, emergency operations commander for the SHA, says officials are finalizing a phased plan to return the remaining staff.
“As we start to resume services we’re identifying that we don’t necessarily have the full staffing complement available and it’s impacting our service resumption,” Miller said, adding some healthcare workers are choosing to leave the field due to burnout.
Carolyn Brost Strom is a public health nurse in Prince Albert. She says she has contemplated quitting due to the stress of her job.
“Every time there is a new wave it pushes us down further and it’s harder to recover mentally and physically,” Strom said.
“I know we make a difference, so it is really tough to feel like you’re not valued and appreciated.”
Strom says the healthcare system is currently staffed to deal with the pandemic, adding staffing levels have improved in the last year. However, she says she is worried that will change once the pandemic is over and employees return to their regular jobs.
“I am quite worried what will happen when this is all over. Everyone is going to be so tired,” she said.
On Sept. 1, the SHA slowed 395 services to deal with the fourth wave.
As of Nov. 26, 257 of those services have fully resumed and 59 have partially resumed, including the organ donation program.
All organ donation staff have returned to their units, allowing those services to resume, according to the release. However, staffing vacancies in Saskatoon are preventing a full resumption of services in that area.
At the beginning of November, the provincial government announced its plan to return 90 per cent of eligible SHA staff to their home positions by the end of the month.
SURGERY BACKLOG STILL NEEDS TO BE TACKLED
Roughly 36,000 patients are waiting for surgeries, according to the SHA, and about half of those are for procedures like knee and hip replacements as well as cataracts.
Surgical services are increasing across the province. However, officials say regional centres are progressing faster than tertiary surgical sites.
All surgical procedures have been restored in several regions including Prince Albert, Lloydminster, Estevan, Weyburn and Kindersley. Seventy-five per cent of surgical services have been restored in Moose Jaw and Swift Current.
Saskatoon has reached 80 per cent and Regina is at 60 per cent.
According to the SHA, surgical reopening in Regina and Saskatoon are delayed due to the high number of COVID-19 admissions in those cities.
Officials say “longstanding” nursing vacancies in Regina’s operating department will impact how quickly surgeries can resume fully.
“There are approximately 20 vacant positions in the OR in Regina,” according a press release by the SHA.
“Even with redeployed staff back, resumption to 100 per cent will take time.”
Miller says the SHA is working with the Ministry of Health to find ways to boost staffing levels, which includes hiring out of province.
“The challenge right now is everyone in Canada and North America is similar. They are all looking for specialized nurses in the ICU,” said health minister Paul Merriman.