Sask. COVID-19 response draws criticism after province asks U.S. states for help before federal government
A Saskatchewan physician and public policy advisor, as well as the NDP Opposition, are criticizing the province’s decision to ask U.S. states for COVID-19 assistance before asking the Canadian government.
On Monday, Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency president Marlo Pritchard said the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre reached out to several U.S. states and Canadian provinces for assistance.
“Basically, we have sent requests to much of North America to identify any ICU-skilled workers or perfusionists that may be deployable to Saskatchewan,” said Pritchard.
The jurisdictions include Manitoba, Alberta, Ontario, Illinois, Montana, Indiana, Michigan, New York, Minnesota, Ohio, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
“To date, Montana, Michigan, North Dakota and Pennsylvania have indicated they cannot provide resources. We also know that Alberta and Manitoba are facing a similar situation regarding COVID as Saskatchewan," Pritchard said.
He said the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre asked the federal government for assistance on Monday, because the organization is unable to get it from emergency measures partners throughout North America.
Dr. Dennis Kendel, a physician and public policy advisor on health-related matters, said he was very surprised to learn the province would ask U.S. states before asking the federal government.
“It just didn't seem to me like a very logical approach to actually be exploring that rather than relying on our own system within Canada,” said Kendel.
Kendel said the province has minimized the severity of Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 situation and “dragged its heels" in terms of asking the federal government for help.
“It’s a combination, I think, of political bias, and frankly, hubris, which means overconfidence that they could somehow just manage this themselves,” he said.
Vicki Mowat, NDP Opposition Health Critic, said the government has some major questions to answer.
“Why did the government ignore offers for help from the federal government for almost a month, instead calling U.S. states for help until the very day that they were forced to ship patients out of the province?” said Mowat in a press conference on Tuesday.
When asked if he had any regret is delaying the formal ask to Ottawa, Pritchard said on Monday he has been on calls with federal representatives for weeks and knows the resources are limited.
“We have to be realistic about it. We may be able to see an increase of two to five beds, but I can’t say that for sure and we have not received anything back from the federal government as of yet,” he said.
Premier Scott Moe said the provincial team has been working with the federal operations centre on a number of pandemic-related topics at the same time as the requests to other jurisdictions across North America.
“All of that was happening simultaneously, it wasn’t one before the other, it was all happening together,” said Moe. “And ultimately, all of those requests have been made.”