ICU transfers to Ontario expected to decline in the coming week

(File photo/Jayda Taylor)

ICU transfers to Ontario expected to decline in the coming week

The province of Saskatchewan is expecting ICU transfers to Ontario to decline and move to intermittent schedules after Sunday.

Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA) president Marlo Pritchard made the announcement as part of the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre (PEOC) media teleconference on Friday morning.

“This is due to decreases in our ICUs and the COVID numbers across Saskatchewan along with the arrival of additional federal resources and our increasing capacity in the healthcare system,” Pritchard told reporters. “In saying that, the situation will be continued to be monitored closely in the coming days.”

He also reported that 85 per cent of those eligible had received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 78 per cent were fully vaccinated an increase of one per cent from the last update.

Saskatchewan transferred three ICU patients instead of the expected four on Thursday. There are currently 22 patients receiving care in Ontario. Saskatchewan has 54 COVID-19 patients in ICU and 37 non COVID-19 patients, for a total of 91 patients.

The province also expected one ICU patient to return home from Ontario later on Friday. Pritchard said patients will only be transferred back if they no longer require intensive care.

“We will keep you updated on these repatriations as they occur in the future,” he explained.

“The process, which has been worked out through our clinicians with the Ontario Critical Care Network, once (those patients) are downgraded and moved to the ward in Ontario, the repatriation process starts.”

Pritchard said they’re aiming for a 24 to 48 hour turnaround to return patients once they’re out of the ICU. Those patients will still be admitted to hospital in Saskatchewan if they still require non-ICU care.

During Monday’s press conference Pritchard said the average cost per flight was between $15,0000 and $22,000 to get the patient to Ontario.

Federal support is starting to make a difference, with six new critical care nurses active in Regina. SHA CEO Scott Livingstone said those nurses continue to provide relief for staff working in the ICUs.

Livingstone added that the decision to ship patients out of province depends on their state, and who is helping make decisions on their behalf.

“If in fact the team determines that the patient would be sent out of province to receive ICU care there are discussions with both the patient and family,” he said.

Livingstone added that patients cannot chose the location in Ontario where they receive ICU care. However, the province does provide accommodation and expenses for the family to join their loved one in Ontario.

The process to determine which patients are sent to Ontario is looked at every day and includes factors such as the current impacts on the ICU and availability of patients to go out of province for that critical care among other factors.

“ Those conversations take place every day and we will monitor that and make adjustments as we need to move forward. But there is no specific number, it changes based on a number of factors which we have talked about earlier,” Pritchard said.

According to a release by the government on Wednesday all future out of patient transfers will be announced directly by the Government of Saskatchewan and the PEOC.