Nine or more ICU patients heading to Ontario next week

(File photo/Jayda Taylor)

The province has plans to transfer up to nine more ICU patients to Ontario next week, according to Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA) president Marlo Pritchard.

Pritchard made the comments as part of the Pandemic Emergency Operations Centre (PEOC) technical briefing on Friday.

“We are anticipating that these numbers will increase early next week to roughly two to four cases per day, for the next several days, to further reduce the strain on the healthcare system,” Pritchard said.

A press release later in the day confirmed that one transfer was in process on Friday. The province also expects to transfer one patient on Saturday, Oct. 23 and another on Sunday, Oct. 24.

Pritchard also confirmed that Ontario has capacity to receive up three transfers a day on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

He said out of province transfers are contingent on several factors, such as ICU capacity, clinical assessment and identification of appropriate patients, severe weather, or other unforeseen events. Final numbers may be subject to change.

“These transfers are in addition to the six which have already been deployed,” Pritchard said. “We are grateful to the province of Ontario, the Ontario Critical Care Command Centre and the many administrators, doctors and nurses for their ongoing support.

“The Government of Saskatchewan will continue to announce all confirmed out-of-province patient transfers on channels such as the Emergency Operations Centre or on the website,” he added.

“There is a great deal of planning that is done by critical care teams both in Saskatchewan and Ontario in order to facilitate those transfers and insure they are done safely. These plans are continually in motion but they are subject to change and we are committed to providing the confirmed information of the transfers of Saskatchewan patients.”

With regards to the recently announced request for assistance from the Federal Government, Pritchard said that meetings are ongoing between organizations such as Public Safety Canada and Saskatchewan Health Authority partners.

“We expect to continue those discussions and planning over the weekend,” Pritchard said. “Significant progress has and continues to be made. I expect to have more information soon about having boots on the ground at some point next week.”

Pritchard also noted that locations for COVID-19 rapid test kits have now begun to be posted on the COVID-19 website. As of Friday morning, kits have been deployed to Swift Current, Lloydminster, Meadow Lake, Melville, Moose Jaw and Regina.

Pritchard said more will be arriving every day, so residents should monitor the province’s COVID website to find out which cities received deliveries.

Rapid test kits are available in Prince Albert, according to the website. The Prince Albert and District Chamber of Commerce office will make them available on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Pritchard explained that he did not have the exact number of kits delivered this week, but believed it to be around 700,000. Another four million rapid test kits are coming in November from the Federal Government.

“You have to appreciate there is a fair bit of logistics that goes out in regards to identifying those locations that are willing to voluntarily deploy those rapid test kits,” Pritchard said.

Pritchard added that each location taking on the rapid test distribution is doing so voluntarily.

”It will be up to each location to decide if they are willing or even able to participate in the distribution of these kits,” Pritchard said.

SHA chief of emergency operations Derek Miller said a committee made up of doctors and ethicists is contemplating a formal recommendation to move to the second stage of triage.

“That is basically where we are right now considering to consider moving stages,” Miller said.

“The triage plan has been approved. It was developed earlier, but there is no plan to move out of stage one as of Monday.”

The province has been operating under the stage for several months which involves cancelling surgeries to free up bed space and health-care workers to focus on COVID-19.

The second stage involves doctors consulting with ethicists about who and who does not get life-saving care. Decisions are being made about care because of the pressures currently on the ICU situation in Saskatchewan, according to Miller.

“There are a number of surgeries such as cardiovascular surgery where they do require an ICU bed after surgery in order to recover and be monitored and so on before they are moved to a unit,” Miller said.

Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab also broke down the way his consultations happen including regular briefings for the SHA, Pritchard and Ministers and Executive Council.

Shahab added that he does not participate in cabinet discussions on these issues.

“I would leave it others, now or later on, to describe the consultations that government has with other tables,” he said. “But obviously, others on the panel could speak to other ministries, education and business response teams.”

Shahab recommended that every employment setting, large or small, should have mandatory vaccine and test policies. That includes daycares, schools, and large operations like mining.

He explained the role of the Business Response Team in his consolations over the past year and a half, beginning with the Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan, which is no longer in effect since July 11.

“That detailed guidance was developed in consultation with those sectors (bars, restaurants) not just the BRT (Business Response Team) to optimize safe ways to stay open at a a third of capacity, (or) half of capacity,” Shahab said. “Some of the feedback that came back from those sectors was really very useful because people who run these sectors sometimes have a better sense of what is feasible and what is not feasible.”

Ken Dueck, Executive Director of the Business Response Team said they’re working with businesses, organizations and others to ensure they operate in the current health restrictions.

“Really, our role is to help them operate safely, but also within the confines of what is within the public health order,” he explained. “What we do is regular outreach. We also collect feedback through our 1-855 line and the support for business email.”

If there are issues with the guidelines, Dueck said they provide that feedback to the health side for further refinements of public health measures, while still keeping in line with health recommendations.