Skip to main content

North Battleford ICU closed for more than two weeks, memo shows

Battlefords Union Hospital is currently in the midst of a 22 day long closure, a leaked Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) memo shows.

The memo — obtained by the provincial NDP and shared with news organizations — shows that Battlefords Union Hospital temporarily closed its intensive care unit (ICU) on July 13.

The closure is set to end on Aug. 3.

According to the memo, staff were shuffled out of the ICU to work primarily in the emergency department.

“If staffing can be sought, the intensive care unit may reopen prior to Aug. 3, 2023,” the memo reads.

“Additionally should the temporary closure require extension we will communicate that accordingly.”

ICU staff working in the ER are still available to provide patient information and resuscitate patients, according to the memo.

“Inpatient telemetry and code blue and responses will remain operational. Nursing units and physicians may call the Emergency Department to speak to the ICU staff to obtain a telemetry reading and patient history," the memo says.

“We’re now regularly getting leaked information from frontline healthcare workers across the province. They hear what this Sask. Party government is saying in the media and healthcare workers know this Health Minister isn’t being transparent or honest. They’re fed up,” said Sask. NDP MLA Matt Love.

“You can’t fix a problem if you aren’t willing to admit it exists. Rather than working to fix these problems, the Sask. Party is spending more time working to cover them up from the public.”

Tracy Zambory, President of the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses, says this type of ICU closure is not rare.

“The sad thing is, this is not a new thing,” she said.

“It is new for Battlefords Union for this length of time. But the fact that we've had intensive care units closing all over the province, because of lack of staff – particularly registered nurse and some physician staff – is nothing new.”

Zambory says the union recognizes the efforts by the province to recruit, but they fall short.

“There isn't enough registered nurses coming from the Philippines to deal with any shortage,” she said.

“For example, the City of Saskatoon and the tri-site emergency rooms there, I think we have over 70 IENs that have committed. But they're not committed to come to those areas, they're committed to come to rural and remote, as far as we've been told.”

On top of the challenges of shortages and closures, communication between the government and the public is an issue.

“There's always announcements that leads us down the smoke and mirrors path when we're really not addressing the huge issue of the Health Human Resource crisis in this province,” Zambory said.

“When they talk about communicating with the public, or the people that work for them, most times it's through their social media channels. So it's not like it's a really directed communication.”

Going forward, Zambory says a nursing task force – consisting of stakeholders, nursing unions, nursing educators and nurse legislators – is needed to engage with experienced and retired nurses to help with retention of younger recruits.

“Our retirees are more than willing to come back and be the mentors that are required. Young nurses that are coming into the system don't have anybody to rely on, they're thrown right into the deep end,” she said.

“We're hearing that more and more from registered nurses who don't feel supported. I've had a conversation with Premier Moe, with Minister Merriman, that we have to get a nursing taskforce going.”

She maintains that if the issue is not acted on, the province will see the fatal, worst possible scenario.

“We can't ignore the fact that we've now got regional intensive care units going on closure for in excess of three weeks that have a huge catchment area. Patient safety is being put at risk. The mental health of registered nurses isn't being addressed,” she said.

“The whole system is going to continue into this freefall and the worst case scenario is going to happen where someone's life is not going to be able to be saved, because we've ignored the issue.”

With files from CTV News' Noah Rishaug.

--This is a developing story. More details to come. Top Stories

B.C. boy dies by suicide after online sextortion: RCMP

Mounties in northern British Columbia are investigating after a 12-year-old boy died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound following an apparent case of online sextortion. Warning: This story is about a child who died by suicide and may be distrubing to readers.

Stay Connected