NDP says province returning to “hallway medicine”

The opposition NDP is calling attention to what they claim is a return of “hallway medicine” in the province. During a video press conference on Tuesday leader Ryan Meili and Health Critic Vicki Mowat brought up the matter of the competence of Health Minister Jim Reiter.  

Meili said that the Saskatchewan Party Government has chosen to under staff and underfund healthcare creating care taking place in hallways in the province in both Saskatoon and Regina. 

“Along came COVID-19 and you saw the Minister and others saying well we are going to make sure the resources are available and here we are four months into this pandemic and it’s not happening. In fact we are back to where we were before, health services were reduced, the reopening of our healthcare system shouldn’t be the reopening of hallway medicine, that’s exactly what we are seeing,” Meili said. 

“We are talking to front line physicians saying they are back in the same position well over 100 per cent capacity,” Meili said. 

Meili pointed the blame directly at Reiter for being unable to learn the lessons going so far as to call Reiter a bad Minister of Health. 

They brought Angela McLean who initially made this known earlier in the fall as an example. 

“In the fall Angela McLean spent nearly a week in the Regina Pasqua Hospital in the hallway and she came out into the media and shared her experiences at the time and now we are quite concerned to hear even with a small spike in COVID cases that we are seeing the same thing,” Mowat said. 

They also brought with them an SHA Daily Rounds memo dated for July 27 that showed other issues emerging. 

“So some of those issues are the fact that the rate of transmission is above two, that there is an increase in bed occupancy in Saskatoon, that there is a spread to the younger population with infection of COVID-19 and that more testing sites are running at maximum capacity,” Mowat explained. 

The conference called for an explanation of the gaps from Reiter. This also included diversion of Intensive Care patients. 

“It raises a lot of concerns for what the future holds for patients in Saskatchewan as we continue to manage through this pandemic,” Mowat said. 

McLean explained that in October she was in a hallway at the Pasqua Hospital in Regina for just under a week and her immunocompromised friend is currently going through a similar situation. 

“And knowing now that a very close friend of mine who is immunocompromised and has a severe health conditions, she has been admitted to the emergency room and again they didn’t have beds and again they put her in the hallway and just left her in the hallway completely exposed where hallways aren’t designed to provide patient care or safety or dignity or privacy or anything. So I am appalled and quite concerned that this is happening again,” McLean said. 

 “We are talking to front line physicians saying they are back in the same position well over 100 per cent capacity 

“As we’re seeing the case number spike of COVID-19, that means we will see more people in ICU,” he said. “If we’re already over capacity, what does that mean for what this is going to look like in the next couple of weeks or months down the road?” 

The NDP has repeatedly been critical of the government for what it calls “hallway medicine.” But Meili said the risk is heightened in the midst of a pandemic. 

“The hallways are once again being used as overflow for emergency rooms, which is never good care,” he said. 

“It’s even worse care when we’re really worried about infectious disease getting into our hospitals.”
The Daily Rounds memo also warned that most testing sites in the province “are currently running at maximum capacity.” It pointed to significant public feedback about delays, but said those issues are being addressed.  

Meili blamed the government for underfunding the health system. 

The government increased funding for the SHA by $140.6 million in the 2020-21 budget, part of a $255 million boost for the Ministry of Health. But Meili noted that the sum did not change from March spending estimates, which were prepared before a pandemic was declared 

The health system has been moving through a service resumption plan after suspending elective surgeries, diagnostics and other procedures in March.  

-with files from Arthur White-Crummey, Regina Leader-Post