Omicron Surge Plan updates announced by Sask. Health Authority
The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) updated its Omicron Surge Plan due to an increase in staff who have tested positive for COVID-19.
Staff absences are up 140 per cent compared to the fourth wave, according the SHA. Roughly 1,000 SHA workers have had to take time off work this week due to COVID-19.
“We’re in a dire shortage,” said Tracy Zambory, president of the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses.
According to Zambory, on several occasions there have been 200 vacant shifts in Saskatoon’s emergency rooms.
“The impact is phenomenal. People have to wait for their care or perhaps don’t even get it.”
The updated surge plan includes five key strategies the SHA said will ensure patients continue to receive the best care possible.
The strategies are as follows:
- Establishment of “Go Teams” that can quickly mobilize and deploy to help maintain continuity of key services;
- Optimize acute care capacity and emergency department flow;
- Maintain enhancements to Emergency Medical Services;
- Implement key provincial human resource strategies to meet multiple system
- Time-limited, targeted service slowdowns when/where required.
The updated plan would be put into action if the province experienced a significant rise in acute care patients in hospitals.
“As we scale up to meet the increased demand due to Omicron, we know it will impact our healthcare teams," Derek Miller, interim chief operating officer and lead for SHA's emergency response said in a release. "These strategies will help protect our ability to deliver essential lifesaving supports for those most in need, ensure any effects on services are as temporary as possible and position us to rapidly and safely return services to normal as pressures subside."
Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer (CMHO), says to expect pressures in every sector of the healthcare system, including long-term care.
However, Shahab says the trick will be to prolong the Omicron peak over the next six to eight weeks through limiting non-essential contacts, mask use and booster doses.
“That (will ensure) the secondary pressures of the acute care system and workplaces don’t come at the same time throughout the province,” Shahab said.
According to the CMHO, Saskatchewan could see the same number of hospitalizations as we did during the fourth, if not higher.
However, this time around, officials do not anticipate they will need to transfer patents out of province to receive care.
“We’re currently not seeing a significant impact in our ICUs,” said Marlo Pritchard, president of the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency.
“In fact, our numbers are significantly lower than they were in the fourth wave.”
While current ICU numbers are low, Zambory says she is “fearful of what’s on the horizon” as hospitals already struggle with capacity and staff.
She says the government’s “wait-and-see approach” is not sufficient, and implementing gathering restrictions would make the biggest difference.
“We don’t have the capacity for wait and see,” she said, adding nurses were not consulted on the surge plan.
“We don’t have the health human resources to do that, nor do we have the capacity inside our facilities. There is no room.”
The government says it is not considering implementing gathering limits or new restrictions at this time.
The province said additional updates will be given if there are service changes that may be required as demand increases.