SHA limiting long-term care staff to one facility starting next Tuesday

Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) CEO Scott Livingstone. (Government of Saskatchewan/Screenshot)

Updated COVID-19 modelling to be released next week with more Saskatchewan-based data 

Next Tuesday the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) will begin restricting its long-term and personal care home staff to one facility only.

This comes after the province’s Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab updated the public health order on Friday to reduce transmission of COVID-19. 

On that same day, he announced positive test results related to an assisted living facility in Regina and a long-term care home in La Loche.

The order also says a care home can seek approval from a medical health officer to permit a staff member to work in more than one facility if they can’t ensure adequate staffing.

“We’ve been watching and learning across the globe about how deadly the impact of COVID-19 is on patients in long-term care,” said CEO Scott Livingstone.

Prior to the order, the health authority had already put visitor restrictions and daily health screening in place; however, Livingstone said “we know we need to continue to do more to enhance these protections.”

“With such a large and varied work force spread over such a sizeable geography and services normally dependent on coordinating staff between multiple sites, achieving this will be no small feat.”

He said this will be the first time staff are cohorted province-wide, although it’s not an unfamiliar measure in Saskatchewan for outbreaks such as influenza.

Livingstone added that the province has established an occupational health and safety hotline for health care staff to quickly access information on safety and supply of protective equipment.

While the SHA’s COVID-19 readiness plan remains the same, Livingstone said it will share updated projections next week. This modelling is not a set of predictions, but ensures the health system is prepared for the worst case scenario.

“We are still planning for extraordinary demand on our critical care units, health care teams and working hard to ensure that we have the necessary acute care capacity to deal with COVID-19’s surge,” said Livingstone.

The current rate of spread in Saskatchewan is under one, meaning on average someone with COVID-19 will transmit the virus to less than one other person.

In previous modelling, said Livingstone, the SHA had been using rates of spread in other jurisdictions across the world.

He said the curve is fairly flat in Saskatchewan, but that’s because of the public’s compliance to restrictions.

“If you pulled everything away, we would very quickly go back up to our original projected numbers.”

Premier Scott Moe has emphasized the importance of ramping up testing and contact tracing to reduce the spread of the virus, setting a target of 1,500 tests per day. However, the number of tests conducted in 24 hours have been dropping.

Livingstone said this is simply because less people are coming forward with symptoms of COVID-19, which include coughing and shortness of breath. In some areas, the calls to HealthLine 811 have also decreased.

He said the province has the capacity to conduct “much more” than the target of 1,500 tests a day.

Results are being processed using rapid technology in Prince Albert, Meadow Lake, Saskatoon and Regina. Livingstone said these testing sites will continue to expand.

“It’s not just about testing today, it’s about what is our testing capacity going to be like as we continue to monitor and approach our COVID response.”