Officials consider patient transfers to rural areas as Sask. COVID-19 hospitalizations reach highest count since October
As of Monday, 262 people with COVID-19 were in hospital, which is the highest count since Oct. 27.
Of those patients, three are children receiving care in either the pediatric intensive care unit or the neo-natal intensive care unit, according to data from the Ministry of Health. Two of those kids are being treated for a COVID-related illness. The other tested positive for COVID-19 upon hospital admittance.
Saskatoon and Regina are facing the greatest capacity pressures. Saskatoon has 124 people with the virus in hospital, including 17 in the ICU. Regina hospitals have 56 COVID-19 patients, with six in the ICU.
While Saskatoon and Regina hospitals are nearing capacity, according to the province’s health minister, rural hospitals are about 70 per cent full. Provincially, Paul Merriman said hospital capacity is sitting around 85 per cent.
In an effort not to overwhelm hospitals in major centres, Merriman said officials are looking at “load leveling” across the province. That could mean some patients in Regina or Saskatoon are transferred to rural areas.
“I know rural Saskatchewan is already stretched in terms of some staffing challenges out there, but we need to be able to utilize those beds,” Merriman said.
“It doesn’t make any sense for us to be in a position where we’re over capacity in Saskatoon or Regina, yet there might be another hospital out in the system that isn’t at capacity.”
According to Merriman, patient transfers have not happened during the Omicron wave yet, but those conversations are underway.
Nearly half of all hospitalizations are incidental cases, which means those patients were admitted to hospital for something other than COVID-19, but tested positive for the virus during the admittance screening process.
According to a statement from the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA), a set of infection prevention and control protocols are put in place for all COVID-positive patients.
“Patients are treated based on the reason for their admission and their course of treatment will not change unless COVID-19 symptoms complicate the reason for why they are admitted,” read the statement.
“The COVID diagnosis may or may not alter their length of stay in the hospital dependent on the severity of their response to the COVID-19 infection.”
According to Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer, incidental cases can require “more complex” care in patients who are older, immune-suppressed or unvaccinated.
Dr. Saqib Shahab said incidental cases create a “higher workload for staff.”
“Once you’re hospitalized, you still require additional layers of infection prevention control because you still want to minimize transmission of COVID from one patient to another or to staff,” Dr. Shahab said.
While hospitalizations have increased, Merriman said admissions for COVID-related illnesses are “fairly stable” around 100 to 115 patients.
“We haven’t seen that spike that the modeling anticipated awhile ago,” he said.
“They seem to be leveling out.”
The most recent government COVID-19 modelling, which was leaked online last week, lays out five different scenarios. In the worst-case scenario, Saskatchewan could see more than 1,500 hospitalizations in late-February. The best-case scenario projects roughly 625 hospitalizations at the beginning of February.
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