Location of Prince Albert COVID-19 testing site to remain private says SHA

SHA Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Susan Shaw (left), Senior Medical Health Officer Julie Kryzanowski (centre) and Emergency Operations Centre site command lead Derek Miller (right) take questions from the media during a Coronavirus update on Saturday, March 14. -- Screen caption from Saskatchewan Health Authority Facebook page.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) says it won’t be disclosing the location of a testing site being set up in Prince Albert to help protect patient privacy.

Instead, they’re asking residents who think they may have COVID-19 to speak with a family physician or nurse practitioner, who will then give them a referral. Residents can also get a referral by calling the 811 health line.

Dr. Susan Shaw, the SHA Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Susan Shaw said residents don’t need to physically visit a physician to get a referral.

“They can do an assessment by phone using an algorithm and then generate a referral that will be sent over to the testing site,” she explained during a press conference on Saturday.

Results are typically available within two days of testing, something Shaw said is “quite impressive.”

The Prince Albert testing site will be the third one to open in the province of Saskatchewan. Derek Miller, the site command lead at the SHA’s Emergency Operations Centre said they’re not sure yet whether more testing sites will be necessary.

In areas like Northern Saskatchewan, they’re looking for more information from local health experts before deciding whether to open another testing location.

“They are assessing what their needs are in terms of testing,” he said on Saturday. “That’s something that they’re (doing) right now, looking at different options to ensure that they’re able to provide that service.”

Miller, Shaw and Senior Medial Health Officer Dr. Julie Kryzanowksi answered questions from the media for nearly 40 minutes on Saturday. All three stressed that there is no evidence of community transmissions of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan.

Both of Saskatchewan’s presumptive cases involve residents who travelled outside the country. The first visited Egypt while the second travelled to Oregon.

SHA officials called the Coronavirus outbreak an “unprecedented challenge” for the province’s healthcare system, especially for the 811 health line which has been flooded with calls. Currently, the health line can handle up to 100 callers at any given time, but efforts are being made to expand to an unlimited capacity.

“We do understand that health line is experiencing its own issues with responding to callers in a timely way, but we ask for people’s patience with that,” Kryzanowski said. “It is important to be assessed for whether a test is (needed). The tests are important for surveillance purposes. We do need to know what’s out there in the community.”

The SHA has also placed additional bulk orders for medical equipment like surgical masks and hospital gowns, however officials noted that global demand is extremely high. Healthcare staff are working to conserve medical equipment as much as possible.

SHA officials took a number of questions on supply stocking, particularly the large amount of toilet paper being purchased around the world. Shaw said there is a lot of uncertainty about COVID-19 because it’s such a new virus, but she said residents should only plan on stocking supplies for a 14-day isolation period. She also advised residents to purchase lots of soap and hand sanitizer.