'Testing the system to its fullest': COVID-19 variants putting pressure on Sask. hospitals
REGINA -- As COVID-19 cases continue to climb in Regina, hospitals are feeling the mounting pressure.
The city is pushing 900 active cases – a number not seen since mid-December.
With a surge in cases comes an increase in hospitalizations. According to the province’s COVID-19 dashboard, there are 68 people in hospital in Regina – a high for the Queen City and a significant increase from the 42 people hospitalized at the beginning of March.
According to the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) – which said there were 60 people in hospital in Regina during a COVID-19 update Thursday – 39 of those hospitalized in the city have tested positive for a variant of concern, including 15 of the 16 patients in the ICU.
SHA CEO Scott Livingstone said the variants are not just having an impact on hospitalizations, but also the age of those admitted.
Of the 35 ICU admissions in Regina in the last month, only one person has been older than 70. Half of the last 10 people admitted to the ICU have been younger than 40.
In an interview with CTV News, the province’s chief medical officer Dr. Susan Shaw said the variants are a result of the virus adapting and trying to survive. As the virus changes, it can also become more deadly, which is what happened with the COVID-19 variants.
“We're definitely seeing that younger people are as susceptible to the COVID virus as anyone else. And that when people get sick with COVID – particularly with a variant – it's a more serious illness that can cause more harm,” said Dr. Shaw.
The province’s vaccine efforts so far have focused on older populations. Livingstone said the vaccine is protecting many older residents and people in long-term care. There are just 11 COVID-19 cases in long-term care in the province today, according to Livingstone, compared to more than 200 cases in early January.
Dr. Shaw said vaccinating the vulnerable first was the right call, but now she is concerned about the pressure younger people will put on the health care system.
“I'm really worried because if young people are becoming ill, and our hospitals are going to be struggling to help manage and take care of everybody because of the increased spread of the virus, we're all in a difficult situation,” said Dr. Shaw.
PRESSURE ON THE HOSPITAL SYSTEM
Livingstone said the SHA had opened an additional 12 ICU beds in Regina to accommodate the surge in patients.
“There is significant pressure,” said Livingstone. “Pressure that Regina hasn't seen through this pandemic yet. And we are testing the system to its fullest. The other thing to remember though, is we are also using other resources available to us.”
In addition to expanding ICU beds, the SHA has also identified other areas that could be turned into intensive care, bought more equipment and is moving patients who no longer need specialized care to rural hospitals to help make room in tertiary centres.
“It's not something that we're taking lightly and we continue to plan for how to expand as we don't believe that we're at the peak of this by any stretch of the imagination,” said Livingstone.