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SHA memo reveals critical care bypasses in four cities across Saskatchewan

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Internal Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) documents obtained by the provincial NDP show that four of the province’s major hospitals were subject to critical care bypasses on Nov. 29.

The first memo showed that critical care in Saskatoon, Yorkton, and Moose Jaw continued to be on bypass while critical care in North Battleford was added to the list.

A second document – dated Nov. 22 – outlined that emergency rooms in Regina were facing “immediate capacity challenges.”

“Regina’s emergency departments are facing immediate capacity challenges and risk to safe patient care,” the memo read. “This is contributing to significant EMS offload delays, presenting a risk to those in the community as available EMS crews are reduced.”

The document went on to say that 78 per cent of the city’s care areas were occupied with the number of unplaced patients “steadily increasing.”

“We have now reached step 3 of our Regina Overcapacity Protocol which is triggering this request in order to attempt to prevent moving to step 4,” the memo read.

Step 4 would include the postponement of procedures.

The documents come days after registered nurses rallied in front of Saskatoon’s St. Paul’s Hospital calling attention to overcrowding at the facility.

The Saskatchewan NDP presented the two memos as evidence of the government’s “mismanagement” of the health care system during legislative proceedings on Thursday.

“We've had healthcare workers, we've had patients signaling a crisis and a looming further crisis in our healthcare system,” NDP Leader Carla Beck told reporters.

“I don't know how to express in any more clear terms that the government should stop with the self congratulation … holding up pieces of paper and patting themselves on the back for a plan that clearly isn't working.”

Speaking after question period, Health Minister Everett Hindley said capacity issues partially stem from an increase in respiratory illnesses.

“The bypasses at various ICUs – this is a snapshot in time as to what's happening. As we know there's a number of different pressures at this time of the year on the health care system overall,” he said.

He added that the extent of the issue is worrying.

“It is concerning to us as a government and to me as the minister. That's why I’m talking to frontline health care providers, it's why the SHA senior leadership is doing that as well.”

Hindley pointed to capital investment as well as health care recruitment while defending the government’s position.

“That's why we are making investments into more ICU beds in the province, more acute care beds into our hospitals, doing work to help with some of the load leveling that's required,” he explained.

“As an example in the city of Saskatoon addressing the capacity issues – seeing what we can do to move out alternative level of care patients who are currently occupying acute care beds in that community.”

“We need to make those advancements on the more short term basis to make sure that we're creating more space for patients that are presenting to our hospitals,” he added.

Beck was clear in her criticism of the government’s action on capacity issues and staffing.

“Listen to these healthcare workers. If they don't believe them, go spend some time in those hospitals, go spend some time on the front line,” she said.

“I think they will be very shocked by what they see there.”

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