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Sask. to send 6 ICU patients to Ont., asks federal government for support

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Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe confirmed six intensive care patients from the province will be sent to Ontario.

Moe also said the province requested specialized ICU support from Ottawa on Monday.

A memo from the Ontario Critical Care COVID-19 Command Centre says that one patient from Saskatchewan is expected to arrive at The Ottawa Hospital on Monday. The memo was originally obtained by CP24.

According to the memo, three more patients will arrive at North Bay Regional Health Centre, Markham-Stouffville Hospital and Mt. Sinai Hospital in Toronto on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Two more patients are scheduled to head to Kingston Health Sciences Centre and Humber River Regional Hospital sometime Wednesday.

“We recognize the stress this will cause the families affected,” said Scott Livingstone, Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) CEO.

“We continue to work every day to maximize capacity to provide care as close to home as possible, but this decision is necessary to maintain the quality of critical care services our patients need. We are extremely thankful to our partners in Ontario for stepping up and providing this support.”

Moe said conversations about patient transfers are underway with the governments of Manitoba and Alberta.

The move comes as ICU admission in the province continue to reach pandemic highs.

According to the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA), there are 335 COVID-19 patients in hospital on Monday, including 85 in the ICU – breaking the record of 84 patients set Sunday.

There are 124 people in intensive care units across the province, including COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients.

The province’s usual ICU capacity outside of the pandemic is 79. The Saskatchewan Health Authority has been adding surge beds in attempts to increase availability.

Saskatchewan NDP Opposition leader Ryan Meili said his thoughts are with the families of those critically ill patients who are being sent out of the province for care this week.

“The decision that should’ve been made weeks ago isn’t to send people away, it’s to get the staff here on the ground to help people.”

Meili said he has spoken with the federal Ministry of Health and they have told him support is available in everything from testing and tracing, all the way to setting up field hospitals.

COST OF TRANSFERRING PATIENTS

According to Derek Miller, emergency operations centre commander with the SHA, it will cost around $20,000 to transfer an ICU patient out of the province – however that estimate does not include getting the patient back to Saskatchewan or the cost of supporting family members.

Miller said the province will foot the bill for one or two family members or support people to travel and stay near the patient while they’re receiving care outside of the province.

The SHA said doctors are following clinical requirements to determent which patients are eligible for a safe transfer. 

REQUEST TO OTTAWA

During a telephone conference with reporters Monday morning, Miller said the ability to staff added critical care beds was the main driver behind reaching out to the federal government for help.

The SHA has redeployed 180 staff into ICUs across the province, according to Miller, but the healthcare system remains “significantly strained.”

Saskatchewan has asked the federal government for skilled staff to support ICUs, including additional critical care nurses, respiratory therapists and perfusionists – personnel who run a heart-lung machine, said Marlo Pritchard, president of the SPSA.

Pritchard said he doesn’t know the specific number of staff that will be redeployed to the province or when they will arrive, but he said the request to Ottawa includes all federal resources, including the military.

With files from CP24’s Chris Herhalt and Nick Dixon.

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