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Sask. doctors air frustrations with health minister, warn of potential fifth wave of COVID-19


Saskatchewan physicians are warning the provincial government of a potential fifth wave of COVID-19 if more measures are not introduced.

Dr. Benjamin Leis was one of several doctors who aired his frustrations with the province’s health minister during the Saskatchewan Medical Association’s fall assembly Friday morning.

“No one is calling the Saskatchewan’s response to the pandemic a success except members of the current government,” Leis said.

“We’re taking care of patients in substandard conditions for a largely preventable disease.”

Saskatchewan continues to have the highest daily new case rate and COVID-19 death rate among the provinces. Current modeling points to at least early 2022 before the province’s health-care system reaches sustainable levels.

Leis says encouraging vaccines is not enough to bring the province out of the fourth wave and prevent a potential fifth.

The cardiologist urged the health minister to take a multi-faceted approach, which would include more restrictions and expanding mandatory vaccinations for certain groups.

“As it turns out, education is not very effective in changing behaviour,” Leis said.

“It’s forced functions that work; hence, why (the government’s) vaccine passport has been successful.”

Health Minister Paul Merriman says the province’s COVID-19 response is multi-faceted, pointing to the current public health measures that include mandatory masking and proof of vaccination.

“We are making it more and more uncomfortable for people to be unvaccinated,” Merriman said.

Once the province is out of the fourth wave, doctors it will still take time for the healthcare system to recover.

Roughly 860 healthcare workers have been redeployed to help with the COVID-19 response. More than half are expected to resume their original jobs by the end of the month.

However, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Alan Beggs says even when all of those employees return to their departments, the amount of nursing staff is still inadequate.

“We have no capacity to meet our past levels of surgery, never mind the predicted up-scaling of surgery coming as we try to work our way out of this huge waitlist,” said Beggs.

About 26,000 non-emergency surgeries have been postponed between March 2020 and October 2021, according to the Saskatchewan Health Authority.

According to Saskatchewan Union of Nurses president Tracy Zambory, the province was in a “human health resource crisis” before the pandemic. She says burnout and fatigue could take staffing shortages to a new level.

“They can only do so much before they start to break,” Zambory said.

“Your life is worth ore than your profession, so if people are starting to feel like they can retire, then they are going to.”

According to Merriman, the provincial government is exploring all avenues to increase its healthcare resources, which could include recruiting out-of-province and out-of-country nurses.

The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Advanced Education are also working together to increase enrollment capacity in post-secondary programs in healthcare. Top Stories

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