Funding for more respiratory therapists allows for 24/7 coverage at hospital

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New funding provided in this year’s provincial budget means Prince Albert’s Victoria Hospital will have 24/7 access to a respiratory therapist.

The province announced during its 2021 budget that it would provide $334,000 in new funding to increase services at the hospital. That announcement was highlighted in a press release issued Friday morning.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority’s executive director of acute care for the north east said the funding allowed them to hire more respiratory therapists, ensuring someone is always working at the hospital.

 “What we did have was a couple of respiratory therapists from Monday to Friday, one in the evening and one on the weekends,” Carol Gregoryk said.

The hospital relied on an on-call therapist for any overnight care.

“This is giving us 24/7 coverage, and doubled up on the weekdays for most of the day.”

The change was made on a temporary basis back in September, Gregoryk said. The budget announcement meant that the increased level of service could continue permanently.

“Our respiratory therapists do far more than just take care of ICU patients,” she said.

“They take care of our babies that are sick in our nursery, they provide care to children with respiratory difficulties, to people in the emergency room as well as on all of our medical surgical units where it’s needed. This is a huge help for us.”

In a press release, the province said the funding nearly doubles capacity to about eight full-time positions at the hospital.

While the need for more respiratory therapists has been increasing for some time, it has “intensified,” since COVID-19 hit, Gregoryk said.

“Respiratory therapists are experts in their field,” she said.

“They carry knowledge that many of the rest of us don’t’ have as far as lung function, and they are experts in ventilators and all of the respiratory equipment.”

People with COVID-19, Gregoryk said, graduate into needing different levels of oxygen therapy. Respiratory therapists manage a lot of those decisions.

“The are really crucial for us in our team,” she said.

Prince Albert is the referral centre for most of the north, and has the north’s largest intensive care unit, Gregoryk said. That means that even without COVID, the specialized position is in high demand throughout the hospital.

“We do see a big demand for our services,” she said. “With COVID respiratory issues are massive.”

“The people of Prince Albert and northern Saskatchewan rely on the important health care services of Victoria Hospital,” Health Minister Paul Merriman said in a press release.

“Our government is pleased to invest in the expansion of respiratory services, which also supports the operational plan for the larger Victoria Hospital redevelopment project.”